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In a new study, leading scientists have revealed that the new high precision radiocarbon-based date set for Laacher See volcano eruption of 13,000 years before present is probably not correct.

They argue that the correct age of the Laacher See volcano eruption is 12,880 years ago, 130 years after the date presented by Reinig et al., in 2021.

This research was carried out by Scientists from our Department of Earth Sciences in collaboration with researchers from University of Oxford, Royal Holloway University of London, SYSTEMIQ Ltd. and Teesside University.

Volcanic carbon

The research team suggest that the new eruption date may have been compromised by volcanic carbon.

The new date by Reining et al., was produced based on radiocarbon on trees that were caught up in the pyroclastic flows produced by the eruption, very near to the volcano.

Unfortunately, volcanoes outgas carbon dioxide from the underlying magma chamber, which filters through the soil and is absorbed by any vegetation, including trees.

This magmatic carbon dioxide has no radiocarbon in it because it is ancient carbon that has been in the ground for millions of years. So, the incorporation of this dead carbon into the tree will produce a date which will be too old.

Sulphur spike in Greenland Ice Sheet

The researchers point out that there is a newly reported sulphur spike which has just been identified within the Greenland ice sheet (sulphur settles out of the air following an eruption onto the ice sheet surface and is buried by subsequent snow).

The Laacher See volcano distributed ash across Europe and spread sulphur across the globe.

The ash resulting from the eruption is widely used as a time marker in sedimentary sequences across Europe, so the timing of the eruption affects the reported timing of environmental change as reconstructed from these European lake cores.

The sulphur spike occurred roughly 12,870 years before present time, essentially the same time as the 12,880 years before present date for the Laacher See eruption, again suggesting that the previously reported date by Reining et al., is incorrect.

The researchers stress that the new date does not coincide with a large sulphur spike.

(Image: Volcanic ash billows into the sky during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. Laacher See eruption was larger than the 1991 Pinatubo eruption.)

Source: The U.S. National Archives

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