Increased rates of large-magnitude explosive eruptions in Japan in the late Neogene and Quaternary

Susan H Mahony*, R S J Sparks, L. M. Wallace, Sam L Engwell, Ellie M Scourse, Nick H Barnard, Jessica Kandlbauer, Sarah K Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

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

22 Citations (Scopus)
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Tephra layers in marine sediment cores from scientific ocean drilling largely record high-magnitude silicic explosive eruptions in the Japan arc for up to the last 20 million years. Analysis of the thickness variation with distance of 180 tephra layers from a global dataset suggests that the majority of the visible tephra layers used in this study are the products of caldera-forming eruptions with magnitude (M) >6, considering their distances at the respective drilling sites to their likely volcanic sources. Frequency of visible tephra layers in cores indicates a marked increase in rates of large magnitude explosive eruptions at ~8 Ma, 6–4 Ma and further increase after ~2 Ma. These changes are attributed to major changes in tectonic plate interactions. Lower rates of large magnitude explosive volcanism in the Miocene are related to a strike-slip dominated boundary (and temporary cessation or deceleration of subduction) between the Philippine Sea Plate and southwest Japan, combined with the possibility that much of the arc in northern Japan was submerged beneath sea level partly due to previous tectonic extension of Northern Honshu related to formation of the Sea of Japan. Changes in plate motions and subduction dynamics during the ~8 Ma to present period led to (1) increased arc-normal subduction in southwest Japan (and resumption of arc volcanism) and (2) shift from extension to compression of the upper plate in northeast Japan, leading to uplift, crustal thickening and favourable conditions for accumulation of the large volumes of silicic magma needed for explosive caldera-forming eruptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2467-2479
Number of pages13
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number7
Early online date1 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • Japan
  • ocean drilling
  • tephra
  • volcano


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