Interaction between climate, volcanism, and isostatic rebound

Volcanism triggered by deglacial unloading may plausibly accelerate melting and […]

Post Author:

Climate State

Date Posted:

April 20, 2017

Volcanism triggered by deglacial unloading may plausibly accelerate melting and water runoff through an albedo effect of dark tephra on snow and ice.


Observations of enhanced volcanic frequency during the last deglaciation have led to the hypothesis that ice unloading in glaciated volcanic terrains can promote volcanism through decompression melting in the shallow mantle or a reduction in crustal magma storage time. However, a direct link between regional climate change, isostatic adjustment, and the initiation of volcanism remains to be demonstrated due to the difficulty of obtaining high-resolution well-dated records that capture short-term climate and volcanic variability traced to a particular source region.

Here we present an exceptionally resolved record of 19 tephra layers paired with foraminiferal oxygen isotopes and alkenone paleotemperatures from marine sediment cores along the Southeast Alaska margin spanning the last deglacial transition.

Major element compositions of the tephras indicate a predominant source from the nearby Mt. Edgecumbe Volcanic Field (MEVF). We constrain the timing of this regional eruptive sequence to 14.6–13.1 ka. The sudden increase in volcanic activity from the MEVF coincides with the onset of Bølling–Allerød interstadial warmth, the disappearance of ice-rafted detritus, and rapid vertical land motion associated with modeled regional isostatic rebound in response to glacier retreat.

These data support the hypothesis that regional deglaciation can rapidly trigger volcanic activity. Rapid sea surface temperature fluctuations and an increase in local salinity (i.e., δ18Osw) variability are associated with the interval of intense volcanic activity, consistent with a two-way interaction between climate and volcanism in which rapid volcanic response to ice unloading may in turn enhance short-term melting of the glaciers, plausibly via albedo effects on glacier ablation zones.

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