The 1452 or 1453 A.D. Kuwae eruption signal derived from multiple ice core records: Greatest volcanic sulfate event of the past 700 years

Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 111, D12107, doi:10.1029/2005JD006710, 2006

C. Gao and A. Robock
Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers-State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.
S. Self
Department of Earth Sciences, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.
J.B. Witter
Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
J.P. Steffensen, H.B. Clausen, M.-L. Siggaard-Andersen and S. Johnsen
Ice and Climate, The Niels Bohr Institute, Juliane Maries Vej 30, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
P.A. Mayewski
Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, Maine, USA.
C. Ammann
National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA.

We combined 33 ice core records, 13 from the Northern Hemisphere and 20 from the Southern Hemisphere, to determine the timing and magnitude of the great Kuwae eruption in the mid-15th century. We extracted volcanic deposition signals by applying a high-pass loess filter to the time series and examining peaks that exceed twice the 31 year running median absolute deviation. By accounting for the dating uncertainties associated with each record, these ice core records together reveal a large volcanogenic acid deposition event during 1453-1457 A.D. The results suggest only one major stratospheric injection from the Kuwae eruption and confirm previous findings that the Kuwae eruption took place in late 1452 or early 1453, which may serve as a reference to evaluate and improve the dating of ice core records. The average total sulfate deposition from the Kuwae eruption was 93 kg SO4/km2 in Antarctica and 25 kg SO4/km2 in Greenland. The deposition in Greenland was probably underestimated since it was the average value of only two northern Greenland sites with very low accumulation rates. After taking the spatial variation into consideration, the average Kuwae deposition in Greenland was estimated to be 45 kg SO4/km2. By applying the same technique to the other major eruptions of the past 700 years our result suggests that the Kuwae eruption was the largest stratospheric sulfate event of that period, probably surpassing the total sulfate deposition of the Tambora eruption of 1815, which produced 59 kg SO4/km2 in Antarctica and 50 kg SO4/km2 in Greenland.