No evidence for tephra in Greenland from the historic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE: implications for geochronology and paleoclimatology

Plunkett, Gill; Sigl, Michael; Schwaiger, Hans F.; Tomlinson, Emma L.; Toohey, Matthew; McConnell, Joseph R.; Pilcher, Jonathan R.; Hasegawa, Takeshi; Siebe, Claus (2022). No evidence for tephra in Greenland from the historic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE: implications for geochronology and paleoclimatology. Climate of the past, 18(1), pp. 45-65. Copernicus Publications 10.5194/cp-18-45-2022

Plunkett2022_Vesuvius_ClimPast.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution (CC-BY).
This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Download (15MB) | Preview

Volcanic fallout in polar ice sheets provide important opportunities to date and correlate ice-core records as well as to investigate the environmental impacts of eruptions. Only the geochemical characterization of volcanic ash (tephra) embedded in the ice strata can confirm the source of the eruption, however, and is a requisite if historical eruption ages are to be used as valid chronological checks on annual ice layer counting. Here we report the investigation of ash particles in a Greenland ice core that are associated with a volcanic sulfuric acid layer previously attributed to the 79 CE eruption of Vesuvius. Major and trace element composition of the particles indicates that the tephra does not derive from Vesuvius but most likely originates from an unidentified eruption in the Aleutian arc. Using ash dispersal modelling, we find that only an eruption large enough to include stratospheric injection is likely to account for the sizeable (24–85 μm) ash particles observed in the Greenland ice at this time. Despite its likely explosivity, this event does not appear to have triggered significant climate perturbations, unlike some other large extra-tropical eruptions. In light of a recent re-evaluation of the Greenland ice-core chronologies, our findings further challenge the previous assignation of this volcanic event to 79 CE. We highlight the need for the revised Common Era ice-core chronology to be formally accepted by the wider ice-core and climate modelling communities in order to ensure robust age linkages to precisely dated historical and paleoclimate proxy records.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

UniBE Contributor:

Sigl, Michael


500 Science > 530 Physics
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology
900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)




Copernicus Publications


[18] European Research Council


[1314] Timing of Holocene volcanic eruptions and their radiative aerosol forcing




Michael Sigl

Date Deposited:

04 Feb 2022 14:49

Last Modified:

28 Feb 2024 07:47

Publisher DOI:





Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback