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Global influence of the AD 1600 eruption of Huaynaputina, Peru


It has long been estabished that gas and fine ash from large equatorial explosive eruptions can spread globally, and that the sulphuric acid that is consequently produced in the stratosphere can cause a small, but statistically significant, cooling of global temperatures1,2. Central to revealing the ancient volcano–climate connection have been studies linking single eruptions to features of climate-proxy records such as found in ice-core3,4,5 and tree-ring6,7,8 chronologies. Such records also suggest that the known inventory of eruptions is incomplete, and that the climatic significance of unreported or poorly understood eruptions remains to be revealed. The AD 1600 eruption of Huaynaputina, in southern Peru, has been speculated to be one of the largest eruptions of the past 500 years; acidity spikes from Greenland and Antarctica ice3,4,5, tree-ring chronologies6,7,8, along with records of atmospheric perturbations in early seventeenth-century Europe and China9,10, implicate an eruption of similar or greater magnitude than that of Krakatau in 1883. Here we use tephra deposits to estimate the volume of the AD 1600 Huaynaputina eruption, revealing that it was indeed one of the largest eruptions in historic times. The chemical characteristics of the glass from juvenile tephra allow a firm cause–effect link to be established with glass from the Antarctic ice, and thus improve on estimates of the stratospheric loading of the eruption.

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Figure 1: Isopach map of Huaynaputina tephra deposit showing the strong westerly distribution of the deposit.
Figure 2: Subseasonal record of sulphate concentrations in the GISP2 ice core for the period AD 1601–05.


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We thank G. Salas, P. Francis, S. Self and the Instituto Geofisico de Peru, particularly the late M. Chang, for their collaboration on this project; P. Mayewski, L. D. Meeker, S. Whitlow and M. Twickler for their work in producing the initial sulphate time series of the GISP2 ice core; M. Germani and J. Palais for their help with the GISP2 tephra studies; J. Fierstein, M. Nathenson and N. Adams for help and discussions about the volume estimates; the members of the GISP2 community for work in developing the chronology of the core; and the Science Management Office, Polar Ice Coring Office and 109th Air National Guard for logistical support. Funding for this work has come from Indiana State University, and the National Science Foundation Petrology and Geochemistry Program, Office of Polar Programs (GISP2 work), and Atmospheric Sciences Program. The manuscript has benefited considerably from thorough reviews by D. Pyle and P. Allard.

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Correspondence to Shanaka L. de Silva.

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de Silva, S., Zielinski, G. Global influence of the AD 1600 eruption of Huaynaputina, Peru. Nature 393, 455–458 (1998).

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