Visualizing tephra deposits and sedimentary processes in the marine environment: The potential of X-ray microtomography

Adam J. Griggs, Siwan M. Davies, Peter M. Abbott, Mark Coleman, Adrian Palmer, Tine Rasmussen, Richard Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Downloads (Pure)


Localized tephra deposition in marine sequences is the product of many complex primary and secondary depositional processes. These can significantly influence the potential applicability of tephra deposits as isochronous marker horizons and current techniques, used in isolation, may be insufficient to fully unravel these processes. Here we demonstrate the innovative application of X-ray microtomography (µCT) to successfully identify tephra deposits preserved within marine sediments and use these parameters to reconstruct their internal three-dimensional structure. Three-dimensional visualizations and animations of tephra dispersal in the sediment permit a more thorough assessment of postdepositional processes revealing a number of complex microsedimentological features that are not revealed by conventional methods. These features include bioturbation burrows and horizontally discontinuous tephra packages, which have important ramifications for the stratigraphic placement of the isochron in a sedimentary sequence. Our results demonstrate the potential for utilizing rigorous two and three-dimensional microsedimentological analysis of the ichnofabric to enhance and support the use of tephra deposits as isochronous marker horizons and to identify the stratigraphic position that best reflects the primary fallout of ash. The application also provides an exceptional insight into the style and rate of sedimentation processes and permits an assessment of the stratigraphic integrity of a tephra deposit. We discuss the possibility of applying these µCT methods to the identification of cryptotephras within various paleoclimatic sequences and to enhance our understanding of marine sedimentation processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4329–4343
Number of pages15
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number12
Early online date20 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015

Cite this