The spatial extent of tephra deposition and environmental impacts from the 1912 Novarupta eruption

Abstract

The eruption of Novarupta within the Katmai Volcanic Cluster, south-west Alaska, in June 1912 was the most voluminous eruption of the twentieth century but the distal distribution of tephra deposition is inadequately quantified. We present new syntheses of published tephrostratigraphic studies and a large quantity of previously un-investigated historical records. For the first time, we apply a geostatistical technique, indicator kriging, to integrate and interpolate such data. Our results show evidence for tephra deposition across much of Alaska, Yukon, the northern Pacific, western British Columbia and northwestern Washington. The most distal tephra deposition was observed around 2,500 km downwind from the volcano. Associated with tephra deposition are many accounts of acid deposition and consequent impacts on vegetation and human health. Kriging offers several advantages as a means to integrate and present such data. Future eruptions of a scale similar to the 1912 event have the potential to cause widespread disruption. Historical records of tephra deposition extend far beyond the limit of deposition constrained by tephrostratigraphic records. The distal portion of tephra fallout deposits is rarely adequately mapped by tephrostratigraphy alone; contemporaneous reports of fallout can provide important constraints on the extent of impacts following large explosive eruptions.

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Acknowledgments

Grateful thanks to the numerous scientists and librarians across North America who assisted with the location of relevant material and particularly to Siân Hughes of the Sir Kenneth Green Library, Manchester Metropolitan University. Thanks to four reviewers and two editors for helpful and insightful comments on previous versions of the manuscript. The first author would like to hear from any readers with knowledge of Novarupta tephra records not included in Online resource 1, particularly any other historical records from the distal zone.

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Correspondence to Richard J. Payne.

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Editorial responsibility: P. Delmelle

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Online resource 1

Raw data: ‘presence’ locations for all data types and data sources. (XLSX 56 kb)

Online resource 2

Raw data: ‘absence’ locations for all data types. (XLSX 20 kb)

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Payne, R.J., Symeonakis, E. The spatial extent of tephra deposition and environmental impacts from the 1912 Novarupta eruption. Bull Volcanol 74, 2449–2458 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00445-012-0674-1

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Keywords

  • Tephra
  • Tephrostratigraphy
  • Cryptotephra
  • Volcanic hazards
  • Acid deposition