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Transatlantic distribution of the Alaskan White River Ash

Jensen, Britta J.L.; Pyne-O’Donnell, Sean; Plunkett, Gill; Froese, Duane G.; Hughes, Paul D.M.; Sigl, Michael; McConnell, Joseph R.; Amesbury, Matthew J.; Blackwell, Paul G.; van den Bogaard, Christel; Buck, Caitlin E.; Charman, Dan J.; Clague, John J.; Hall, Valerie A.; Koch, Johannes; Mackay, Helen; Mallon, Gunnar; McColl, Lynsey; Pilcher, Jonathan R.


Britta J.L. Jensen

Sean Pyne-O’Donnell

Gill Plunkett

Duane G. Froese

Paul D.M. Hughes

Michael Sigl

Joseph R. McConnell

Matthew J. Amesbury

Paul G. Blackwell

Christel van den Bogaard

Caitlin E. Buck

Dan J. Charman

John J. Clague

Valerie A. Hall

Johannes Koch

Gunnar Mallon

Lynsey McColl

Jonathan R. Pilcher


Volcanic ash layers preserved within the geologic record represent precise time markers that correlate disparate depositional environments and enable the investigation of synchronous and/or asynchronous behaviors in Earth system and archaeological sciences. However, it is generally assumed that only exceptionally powerful events, such as supereruptions (≥450 km3 of ejecta as dense-rock equivalent; recurrence interval of ∼105 yr), distribute ash broadly enough to have an impact on human society, or allow us to address geologic, climatic, and cultural questions on an intercontinental scale. Here we use geochemical, age, and morphological evidence to show that the Alaskan White River Ash (eastern lobe; A.D. 833–850) correlates to the “AD860B” ash (A.D. 846–848) found in Greenland and northern Europe. These occurrences represent the distribution of an ash over 7000 km, linking marine, terrestrial, and ice-core records. Our results indicate that tephra from more moderate-size eruptions, with recurrence intervals of ∼100 yr, can have substantially greater distributions than previously thought, with direct implications for volcanic dispersal studies, correlation of widely distributed proxy records, and volcanic hazard assessment.


Jensen, B. J., Pyne-O’Donnell, S., Plunkett, G., Froese, D. G., Hughes, P. D., Sigl, M., …Pilcher, J. R. (2017). Transatlantic distribution of the Alaskan White River Ash. Geology, 42(10), 875–878.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 21, 2014
Online Publication Date Mar 9, 2017
Publication Date 2017
Deposit Date Oct 29, 2020
Journal Geology
Print ISSN 0091-7613
Electronic ISSN 1943-2682
Publisher Geological Society of America
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Issue 10
Pages 875–878
Public URL