About the Group
Tephrochronology is a widely used dating and correlation tool with applications in, for example, archaeology, paleontology, paleolimnology, environmental/climate change, paleoseismology, surface processes/geomorphology, volcanology/hazards, and igneous petrology. Because volcanic ash from major eruptions is dispersed over large areas, tephra beds are frequently used to provide isochrons over distances of hundreds to thousands of kilometers. This allows the testing of relative timings across long distances at a temporal resolution that is unmatched by most other geochronological techniques.
For successful and robust correlation of distal tephra beds and for identification of their source volcanoes and eruptions, data obtained on distal tephra samples must be compared to databases containing geochemical, geographic, stratigraphic, age, and other information. During the last few decades, thousands of tephra samples and an enormous volume of geochemical data have been collected. However, there does not yet exist any comprehensive catalog of samples or a unified database to bring this vast information together. Currently, only a limited number of regionally-focused databases exist.
By integrating decades of geochemical data with both physical data and interpretive results, by making that data far more accessible and discoverable, and by increasing collaboration among tephra data producers and current and potential users, substantial scientific progress could be realized. Data integration and collaboration has the potential to yield increased efficacy in identifying and correlating unknown samples as well as greater confidence in those correlations. This will in turn benefit numerous users of tephrochronology. In addition, this data will become a significant resource for understanding magmatic and eruptive processes, provide additional data sets for the testing of tephra dispersal models, provide key information for assessing volcanic hazards, and provide unified data sets useful for studying larger scale volcano-tectonic processes.
Recently, a major opportunity has arisen. the U.S. National Science Foundation is moving forward with a large-scale data-assimilation and community-building project called EarthCube. This offers the potential to develop the needed cyberinfrastructure, support efforts to enhance collaboration, and accomplish the hard work of assimilating large volumes of data.