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Stable isotopic and chemical indicators of volcanic eruptions in tree rings from Parícutin, Mexico

Christine A.M. France, Paul R. Sheppard, Nadia Cano, Nicole C. Little, Robert J. Speakman
  • Christine A.M. France
    Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, Suitland, MD, United States | francec@si.edu
  • Paul R. Sheppard
    Laboratory or Tree Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States
  • Nadia Cano
    Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, Suitland, MD, United States
  • Nicole C. Little
    Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, Suitland, MD, United States
  • Robert J. Speakman
    Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, Suitland, MD, United States

Abstract

Annual growth rings obtained from well dated tree ring cores from Parícutin, Mexico are examined for unique chemical signatures that reflect a known local volcanic eruption and its subsequent atmospheric and terrestrial inputs. Stable carbon isotopic profiles are combined with elemental analyses to construct a chemical profile before, during, and after the known eruptive years (1943-1952) when a cinder cone formed near the town of Parícutin. Data from this well documented eruption are combined with controls obtained from outside the ash fall zone. Carbon isotopes exhibit an enriched spike (~3‰) during the eruptive period followed by a subsequent return to baseline values. This in combination with other stable isotopic indicators and increases in phosphorus, sulfur, and possibly other elements, suggest a unique set of chemical inputs from the eruption. The analytical approach developed here potentially can be used to date unknown eruptions which in the past have often relied on the common dendrochronologic technique of tree ring width determination, or on historic human records. The former method can be somewhat subjective as changes in ring width can be attributed to multiple causes in addition to volcanically induced environmental stresses; the latter method is restricted to eruptions occurring in the last few thousand years. The quantitative approach of chemical analyses presented in this preliminary study can potentially be combined with standard dendrochronological and/or 14C dating to accurately identify eruption events and place them in an anthropologic context.

Keywords

stable isotopes, dendrochronology, ICP-MS

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Submitted: 2013-12-24 11:08:13
Published: 2014-01-21 11:19:57
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Copyright (c) 2014 Christine A.M. France, Paul R. Sheppard, Nadia Cano, Nicole C. Little, Robert J. Speakman
 
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