Merging eruption datasets

building an integrated Holocene eruptive record for Mt Taranaki, New Zealand

Michael B. Turner*, Mark S. Bebbington, Shane J. Cronin, Robert B. Stewart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Citations (Scopus)


Acquiring detailed eruption frequency datasets for a volcano system is essential for realistic eruption forecasts. However, accurate datasets are inherently difficult to compile, even if one or more well-dated eruption records are available. A single record typically under-represents the eruption frequency, while combining two or more records may result in an overrepresentation. Although glass compositions have proven to be successful in tephrochronological studies of dominantly rhyolitic tephras; microlitic growth and thin glass shards inhibit their application to andesitic tephras. A method consisting of a combination of two techniques for correlating syn-eruptive deposits is demonstrated on data from the typical andesitic stratovolcano of Mt. Taranaki, New Zealand. Firstly, tentative matches are identified using the radiocarbon age and associated error of each event. Secondly, the compositions of titanomagnetite micro-phenocrysts are used as an independent check, and shown to be a useful correlation tool where age data is available. Using two lake-core records containing tephra layers in an overlapping time-frame, the radiocarbon age-correlation procedure suggested 31 tephra matches. Geochemistry data were available for 15 of these pairs. In three of these cases, the titanomagnetite compositions did not match. Hence, these "paired" tephras were from compositionally distinct magmas and therefore likely represent separate events. An additional three matches were reassigned within the temporal uncertainty limits of the dating procedure, based on better geochemical pairing. The final combined dataset suggests that there have been at least 138 separate ash fall-producing eruptions between 96 and 10 150 years B.P. from Taranaki. Using the combined dataset the mixture of Weibulls renewal model forecasts a probability of 0.52 for an eruption occurring in the next 50 years at this volcano. The present annual eruption probability is estimated at 1.6%. This likelihood is almost double that obtained when relying on a single stratigraphic record.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)903-918
Number of pages16
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2009



  • Eruption record
  • Holocene
  • Mt Taranaki/Egmont
  • New Zealand
  • Probabilistic eruption forecasting
  • Tephra correlation
  • Titanomagnetite
  • Weibull renewal model

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