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Abstract

Volcanic ash is dispersed over thousands of kilometres during large-scale eruptions, forming sedimentary layers. These ash (tephra) deposits are increasingly being used as unique marker layers in a variety of sedimentary archives including ice cores, and terrestrial and marine records. Tephra dispersed during large explosive eruptions that coincide with the defined beginning of the Anthropocene could therefore be used to help identify this event in various archives, and assess the relative spatial differences in marked anthropogenic change. The 1815 eruption of Tambora, Indonesia, was the largest in historical time and occurred in the middle of Europe’s Industrial Revolution. Volatile emissions injected into the atmosphere during this eruption caused widespread effects including the ‘year without a summer’ during which there were anomalously cooler temperatures recorded across much of North America and Europe. Sulphate aerosols associated with the eruption were dispersed by stratospheric and tropospheric winds across the entire globe. Deposits of these are clearly recorded in the Earth’s key palaeoclimatic records: polar ice cores. Significantly, the Tambora eruption occurred immediately prior to substantial increases in greenhouse gases, a defining feature of the Anthropocene.

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