Evidence of the Eldgjá (Iceland) eruption in the GISP2 Greenland ice core: relationship to eruption processes and climatic conditions in the tenth century


Glaciochemical studies and the evaluation of tephra in the GISP2 ice core provide information on the characteristics and potential environmental and climatic effects of the mid- to late AD 930s voluminous fissure eruption of Eldgjá, Iceland. The similarity in the chemical composition of basaltic glass shards found in a section of core dated at AD 938 ± 4 compared to proximal glass from the Eldgjá eruption verifies the presence of Eldgjá debris. A dacitic glass present in the same layer probably originated from Eldgjá as well, in which case Eldgjá was the primary contributor of sulphur-rich aerosols to the atmosphere in the late AD 930s. We cannot completely exclude the possibility that another explosive eruption in the AD 930s produced this dacitic glass. Estimated maximum stratospheric loading is 100 X 1012 g H 2SO4 over a 3-6 year period following the eruption, but loading could be as low as half of that value. A search of historical and proxy records for the late AD 930s to early 940s fail to show a consistent period of climatic cooling, especially considering the lack of an absolute date for the Eldgjá eruption. This inconsistent response is similar to that observed after the equally voluminous AD 1783 fissure eruption of Laki, Iceland, using the same proxy data sets. However, a marked drop in surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere follows the Laki eruption.


Earth Systems Research Center

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The Holocene



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