Geochemical ice-core constraints on the timing and climatic impact of Aniakchak II (1628 BCE) and Thera (Minoan) volcanic eruptions

Charlotte Pearson*, Michael Sigl*, Andrea Burke, Siwan Davies, Andrei Kurbatov, Mirko Severi, Jihong Cole-Dai, Helen Innes, Paul G Albert, Meredith Helmick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
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Decades of research have focused on establishing the exact year and climatic impact of the Minoan eruption of Thera, Greece (c.1680–1500 BCE). Ice cores offer key evidence to resolve this controversy, but attempts have been hampered by a lack of multi-volcanic event synchronization between records. In this study, Antarctic and Greenland ice-core records are synchronized using a double bipolar sulfate marker and calendar dates are assigned to each eruption revealed within the ‘Thera period’. From this global scale sequence of volcanic sulfate loading, we derive indications towards each eruption’s latitude and potential to disrupt the climate system. Ultra-fine sampling for sulfur isotopes and tephra conclusively demonstrate a colossal eruption of Alaska’s Aniakchak II as the source of stratospheric sulfate in the now precisely dated 1628 BCE ice layer. These findings end decades of speculation that Thera was responsible for the 1628 BCE event, and place Aniakchak II (52 ± 17 Tg S) and an unknown volcano at 1654 BCE (50 ± 13 Tg S) as two of the largest Northern Hemisphere sulfur injections in the last 4000 years. This opens possibilities to explore widespread climatic impacts for contemporary societies and, in pinpointing Aniakchak II, confirms that stratospheric sulfate can be globally distributed from eruptions outside the tropics. Dating options for Thera are reduced to a series of precisely dated, constrained stratospheric sulfur injection events at 1611 BCE, 1562-1555 BCE and c.1538 BCE which are all below 14 ± 5 Tg S, indicating a climatic forcing potential for Thera well below that of Tambora (1815 CE).
Original languageEnglish
Article numberpgac048
Number of pages12
JournalPNAS Nexus
Issue number2
Early online date29 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Ice cores
  • Tree-rings
  • Tephra
  • Sulfate
  • Volcanic forcing


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