A rigorous detection of Milankovitch periodicities in volcanic output across the Pleistocene-Holocene ice age has remained elusive. We report on a spectral analysis of a large number of well-preserved ash plume deposits recorded in marine sediments along the Pacific Ring of Fire. Our analysis yields a statistically significant detection of a spectral peak at the obliquity period. We propose that this variability in volcanic activity results from crustal stress changes associated with ice age mass redistribution. In particular, increased volcanism lags behind the highest rate of increasing eustatic sea level (decreasing global ice volume) by 4.0 ± 3.6 k.y. and correlates with numerical predictions of stress changes at volcanically active sites. These results support the presence of a causal link between variations in ice age climate, continental stress field, and volcanism.

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