, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 661-667

The Morphological and Optical Properties of Volcanic Glass: A Tool to Assess Density-induced Vertical Migration of Tephra in Sediment Cores

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Abstract

Volcanic ash layers in sediment cores are valuable geochronological markers in paleolimnological research. The composition of volcanic glass is related to identifiable, chronologically distinctive volcanic eruptions. Consequently, tephra layers provide time horizons allowing regional-scale correlations for lake sediments. Volcanic glass is often present in samples routinely prepared by paleolimnologists such as diatom slides and thin sections. Knowledge of the morphological and optical properties of volcanic glass allows for its identification. This is essential for the identification of ash layers that are not macroscopically visible or to track their vertical migration in soft organic sediments. The purposes of this note are to: (1) describe how the morphological (i.e., shape, vesicularity) and optical (i.e., refractive index and birefringence) properties can be used to identify volcanic glass in preparations from lake sediments; and (2) show how the quantification of volcanic glass from diatom slides is used to quantify the density-induced displacement of a 4.5 cm-thick Mazama ash-layer through organic sediments and to approximate its timing of initial deposition.