A second tephra isochron for the Younger Dryas period in Northern Europe: The Abernethy Tephra

Alison MacLeod, Ian Matthews, John Lowe, Adrian Palmer, Paul Albert

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Visible and non-visible (cryptotephra) volcanic ash layers are increasingly being used to underpin the chronology and high-precision correlation of sequences dating to the last glacial–interglacial transition (LGIT). As the number of sediment records analysed for tephra content rises, and methodological developments permit the detection, extraction and chemical analysis of increasingly scantily represented glass shard concentrations, greater complexity in shard count profiles is revealed. Here we present new evidence from sites in Scotland, and review published evidence from sites elsewhere in NW Europe, that indicate complexity in the eruptive history of Katla volcano during the mid Younger Dryas and Early Holocene. We propose evidence for a previously overlooked tephra isochron, here named the Abernethy Tephra, which is consistently found to lie close to the Younger Dryas/Holocene transition. It has a major-element chemical composition indistinguishable from that of the Vedde Ash, which was erupted from the Katla volcano at 12,121 ± 114 cal a BP. The new data suggest that Katla may have erupted again between 11,720–11,230 cal a BP and the subsequent ash fall increases the potential to assess environmental response to Holocene warming across north and west Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalQuaternary Geochronology
Early online date20 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • Tephra
  • Vedde Ash
  • Katla
  • Younger Dryas
  • Abernethy Tephra
  • varves

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