Scientists link ancient ash to volcano more than 3,000 miles away

"The eruption that produced our ash was larger than most, but smaller than others who did not spread out their ash across the hemisphere," researcher Willem van der Bilt said.
By Brooks Hays  |  May 19, 2017 at 2:26 PM
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May 19 (UPI) -- Volcanic ash can travel a surprisingly long distance. Researchers in Norway have linked ancient ash recovered from the bottom of an Arctic lake to a volcano more than 3,000 miles away.

"I expected our ash to originate from Iceland. This study really highlights the need to look beyond the usual suspects in this line of research," Willem van der Bilt, lead-author and researcher at the University of Bergen, said in a news release.

The study's findings -- detailed in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews -- expands the potential dispersal range of volcanic ash. Given the right conditions, ash can travel much farther than previously thought.

"The eruption that produced our ash was larger than most, but smaller than others who did not spread out their ash across the hemisphere," van der Bilt said. "Day-to-day shifts in weather factors like the speed and direction of winds surely helped this ash come such a long way."

Researchers recovered the ash from lakebed sediment. Using a delicate procedure and precise needle, scientists isolated six individual ash particles. Each particle was blasted with an electron beam, revealing unique chemical signatures.

"Like human DNA, the composition of volcanic ash is unique," van der Bilt said. "Geochemical analysis help us fingerprint this signature and match it with an eruption."

The chemical signatures matched those of an eruption that occurred 7,000 years ago on Russia's Kamchatka peninsula.

The discovery -- and other similar investigations -- can help scientists synchronize geological samples and the study of climate events.

"If such records hold information on past climate change, our ash marker enables us to investigate cause-effect and lead-lag relationships in Earth`s climate system -- information that is highly valuable to help understand processes driving climate changes like those seen today," van der Bilt said.

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