The Icelandic Laki volcanic tephra layer in the Lomonosovfonna ice core, Svalbard

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Abstract

The largest sulphuric acid event revealed in an ice core from the Lomonosovfonna ice cap, Svalbard, is associated with the densest concentration of microparticles in the ice core at 66.99 m depth. Electron microscope analysis of a volcanic ash particle shows it has the same chemical composition as reported for debris from the eruption of Iceland's Laki fissure in 1783 and confirms the identification of the tephra. Most of the particles in the deposit are not ash, but are common sand particles carried aloft during the eruption event and deposited relatively nearby and downwind of the long-lasting eruption. The tephra layer was found 10–20 cm deeper than high sulphate concentrations, so it can be inferred that tephra arrived to Lomonosovfonna about 6–12 months earlier than gaseous sulphuric acid precipitation. The sulphuric acid spike has a significant cooling impact recorded in the oxygen isotope profile from the core, which corresponds to a sudden drop in temperature of about 2°C which took several years to recover to previous levels. These data are the first particle analyses of Laki tephra from Svalbard and confirm the identification of the large acidic signal seen in other ice cores from the region. They also confirm the very large impact that this Icelandic eruption, specifically the sulphuric acid rather than ash, had on regional temperatures.

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