The influence of burial rate on variability in tephra thickness and grain size distribution in Iceland

Polly Thompson, Andrew Dugmore, Anthony Newton, Nick Cutler, Richard Streeter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We explore whether the rate at which a tephra deposit is buried influences the variability (thickness and grain size distribution) within the tephra layer subsequently preserved within the stratigraphic record. This has important implications for understanding how processes of soil formation interact with the creation of a volcanic record. To assess the relationship between soil formation and the preservation of tephra layers, the thickness and grain size distribution of the Katla 1918 tephra in Iceland and the rate at which it was buried (inferred from the thickness of the overlying soil) was measured 1620 times at six locations. Tephra layer thickness does not correlate with rate of burial, but the proportion of original deposit retained does, and variations in grain size distribution are correlated with burial rate. Our results indicate that whilst medium term (i.e. years-decades) burial processes may contribute less to tephra layer variability than environmental processes operating immediately after deposition, rapid burial facilitates better preservation of the original fallout characteristics with important implications for the accurate reconstruction of past volcanic eruptions based on tephra layer characteristics. There are two key implications: firstly, sites need to be chosen where surface characteristics minimise the initial alterations of tephra deposits, and secondly sites with rapid burial will produce the best quality data, although workable data can be gathered elsewhere if areas of uncertainty are acknowledged.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107025
Early online date25 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'The influence of burial rate on variability in tephra thickness and grain size distribution in Iceland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this