, Volume 73, Issue 1, pp 27-37
Date: 07 Sep 2010

A remarkable pulse of large-scale volcanism on New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea

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Abstract

New studies of the deposits from the latest caldera-forming eruption (the “Dk” event) at Dakataua Volcano, New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea, help identify an intense space-time concentration of large-scale volcanism during the 7th century AD on New Britain. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal from the Dk deposits yields an age of 1,383 ± 28 BP. Calibration of this result gives an age in the range AD 635–670 (at 1 s. d.). At about the same time, two other volcanoes on New Britain, Rabaul and Witori, also produced very large eruptions. Very high acidity levels in ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland at AD 639 and AD 640 respectively may be linked to either or both of the Dakataua and Rabaul eruptions. Another ice core high acidity level, at AD 692, may be associated with the Witori eruption. Significant volcanic risk within the New Britain region is indicated by its Late Cenozoic history of relatively frequent large-scale eruptions from as many as 8 caldera systems within an arc-parallel zone about 380 km long. Over the last 20 ka the return period for major (VEI 5+) eruptions in this region was about 1.0 ka and individually high frequencies of major eruptive activity were experienced at Witori and Rabaul. The relatively short return period for major eruptions in the region would tend to increase the chance that such events could cluster in time.

Editorial responsibility: J. Stix