Characterisation of the Quaternary eruption record: analysis of the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database

Sarah K Brown, H S Crosweller, R S J Sparks, Elizabeth Cottrell, Natalia I Deligne, Natalie Ortiz Guerrero, Laura Hobbs, Koji Kiyosugi, Susan Loughlin, Lee Siebert, Shinji Takarada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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The Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database contains data on 1,883 Quaternary eruption records of magnitude (M) 4 and above and is publically accessible online via the British Geological Survey. Spatial and temporal analysis of the data indicates that the record is incomplete and is thus biased. The recorded distribution of volcanoes is variable on a global scale, with three-quarters of all volcanoes with M≥4 Quaternary activity located in the northern hemisphere and a quarter within Japan alone. The distribution of recorded eruptions does not strictly follow the spatial distribution of volcanoes and has distinct intra-regional variability, with about 40% of all recorded eruptions having occurred in Japan, reflecting in part the country’s efforts devoted to comprehensive volcanic studies. The number of eruptions in LaMEVE decreases with increasing age, exemplified by the recording of 50% of all known Quaternary eruptions during the last 20,000 years. Historical dating is prevalent from 1450 AD to the present day, substantially improving record completeness. The completeness of the record also improves as magnitude increases. This is demonstrated by the calculation of the median time, T50, for eruptions within given magnitude intervals, where 50% of eruptions are older than T50: T50 ranges from 5,070 years for M4-4.9 eruptions to 935,000 years for M≥8 eruptions. T50 follows a power law fit, suggesting a quantifiable relationship between eruption size and preservation potential of eruptive products. Several geographic regions have T50 ages of <250 years for the smallest (~M4) eruptions reflecting substantial levels of under-recording. There is evidence for latitudinal variation in eruptive activity, possibly due to the effects of glaciation. A peak in recorded activity is identified at 11 to 9 ka in high-latitude glaciated regions. This is absent in non-glaciated regions, supporting the hypothesis of increased volcanism due to ice unloading around this time. Record completeness and consequent interpretation of record limitations are important in understanding volcanism on global to local scales and must be considered during rigorous volcanic hazard and risk assessments. The study also indicates that there need to be improvements in the quality of data, including assessment of uncertainties in volume estimates.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Applied Volcanology
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2014


  • Volcanic hazards
  • Database
  • Explosive eruptions
  • Magnitude
  • Under-recording
  • Record completeness
  • Japan
  • Quaternary


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