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Sources of uncertainty in the Mazama isopachs and the implications for interpreting distal tephra deposits from large magnitude eruptions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number23 (2020)
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
DateSubmitted - 5 Sep 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 10 Jan 2020
DatePublished (current) - 6 Feb 2020


Estimating the area of tephra fallout and volume of large magnitude eruptions is fundamental to interpretations of the hazards posed by eruptions of this scale. This study uses the tephra from the caldera forming eruption of Mount Mazama (Crater Lake, Oregon, USA) to demonstrate the challenges faced when working with large prehistoric tephra deposits and outlines the methodologies required to determine eruption volume and magnitude. We combine >250 Mazama tephra occurrences, reported by a range of disciplines (including archaeology, paleoclimatology and volcanology), with new field studies to better understand the extent of the distal tephra. We find that the Mazama tephra has been remobilised to varying degrees over the past 7000 years, so each tephra locality was appraised for the likelihood that it records primary tephra fallout. We designated 45 of the distal (>100 km from source) tephra sites as suitable for use in the production of isopachs using a spline fitting method. The new distal isopachs were then integrated with proximal fallout data and estimates of the ignimbrite volume from previous studies to revise the estimated bulk erupted volume from the climactic Mazama eruption to ~ 176 km3 (~ 61 km3 dense-rock equivalent; DRE). This study demonstrates the importance of collating tephra localities from a range of disciplines and that even remobilised deposits, provide valuable information about the extent of the deposit. Interpreting remobilised deposits can provide insight into post-eruptive processes that could potentially pose secondary hazards following large magnitude eruptions. We also show that in some circumstances, remobilised deposits preserve important physical properties such as grain size.

    Research areas

  • Tephra, Crater Lake, Mazama, isopachs, remobilisation, eruption volume

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    Licence: CC BY


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