Evaluating tephrochronology in the permafrost peatlands of northern Sweden

Claire L. Cooper*, Graeme T. Swindles, Elizabeth J. Watson, Ivan P. Savov, Mariusz Gałka, Angela Gallego-Sala, Werner Borken

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Tephrochronology is an increasingly important tool for the dating of sediment and peat profiles for palaeoecological, palaeoclimatic and archaeological research. However, although much work has been done on tephra in temperate peatlands, there have been very few in-depth investigations of permafrost peatlands. Here we present the analysis of nine peatland cores from Abisko, northern Sweden, and show that the presence of tephra layers may be highly variable even over a scale of <10 km. Using electron probe microanalysis (EPMA) combined with age-depth profiles compiled from radiocarbon (14C) and 210Pb dating of peat records, we identify the Hekla 1104, Hekla 1158, Hekla-Selsund and the Hekla 4 tephra layers. We also infer the presence of the Askja 1875 tephra, in addition to an unassigned tephra dating from between 1971–1987 AD in two separate cores. Five of the nine analysed cores do not contain distinct tephra layers. Volcanic ash deposits in northern Scandinavia are subject to both regional-scale variations in climate and atmospheric circulation, and local-scale variations on the order of tens of kilometres in topography, vegetation, snow cover, and ground permeability. The extreme inconsistency of tephra preservation within a small study area (∼3000 km2) brings into question the reliability of tephrochronology within permafrost peatlands, and highlights the necessity of alternative methods for dating peat profiles in this region.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)16-28
    Number of pages13
    JournalQuaternary Geochronology
    Early online date22 Nov 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2019


    • Glass preservation
    • Peatlands
    • Permafrost
    • Tephra
    • Tephrochronology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geology
    • Stratigraphy
    • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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