Tephrabase: A Tephrochronological Database

Tephrabase Android App

As part of her MSc Geographical Information Science at the University of Edinburgh, Arista Regalia has produced the first Tephrabase App, which is available on Google Play. This was release in December 2020. This was created as a tool for education and to aide in field studies of tephra deposits. This application allows users to access and view known tephra layer information within Iceland, and query information based on content or location. We hope to update this tool in the future.

Updates 2018-21

During the past few years, Tephrabase has seen its largest expansion with new data being added, as well as rewriting of some of the code and a tidying up and cleaning of the data already held in the database. This work was partly carried out through the NSF-funded dataARC project. Tephrabase is an integral part of this multinational effort, which aims to link environmental, archaeological and historical sources in the North Atlantic region.

Highlights include the addition of 390 new sites, 2600 tephra layers and over 2700 geochemical analyses. 170 of these new sites and 2200 tephra layers are in Iceland. The remaining sites are of distal cryotephras found in Europe. Tephrabase's growing data currently contains details of nearly 6000 tephra layers (including over 6500 geochemical analyses) at nearly 1200 sites. We have also streamlined the way that dating of Icelandic historical tephra layers are handled and attempted to deal with the multiple names that the same tephra layer may have. The automatic drawing of stratigraphic diagrams has been expanded to include all European sites and the Sediment Accumulation Rate Generator to all suitable (i.e. aeolian soil) tephra sites in Iceland. The method by which results are displayed has also been updated.

Further work is ongoing to further integrate into dataARC and add new data to Tephrabase. The whole system has been ported from Oracle to the open source PostgreSQL database, together with improvements to the database structure, improving the systems for adding and editing data and rewriting of the code which displays the webpages and handles searches. We hope to make the new system available soon. [February 2021]

Ey2010 tephra

Tephra (volcanic ash) layers are now an invaluable tool in palaeoenvironmental studies, as well a record of volcanic activity. The data produced by such research can be difficult to handle and disseminate. Tephrabase is a database of tephra layers found in Iceland, north-west and northern Europe, Russia and central Mexico. Details on the location, name, age and geochemistry of tephra layers are stored in the database, as well as information about relevant volcanoes and volcanic systems. A comprehensive reference database is also included. A Laacher See supplementary data collection is also included.

We have also added a feature that enables the automatic creation of tephrostratigraphic profiles and calculations of sediment accumulation rates for relevant soil profiles in Iceland.

The data stored in Tephrabase can be broadly divided into five main categories. As Tephrabase develops these will change and it is hoped that connections can also be made to other online systems.

  • Publications: Tephrabase has a frequently updated publications database (over 3800 entries) and all of the data in the database are linked to publications. Use this to search on keywords, authors or by year.
  • Iceland/Europe: Tephrabase was originally developed as a source of information about Icelandic tephra layers and currently has details of nearly 5500 mainly Icelandic-derived tephra layers found at over 540 sites in Iceland and Europe, as well as over 5400 major element analyses.
  • Laacher See: This supplement to Tephrabase was developed with Felix Riede and contains details of over 460 sites where the c. 13 ka BP Laacher See tephra has been found and 16 locations with geochemical data.
  • Central Mexico: Tephrabase also includes details of some 16 sites, with 53 tephra layers (over 700 geochemical analyses) in central Mexico.
  • Mapping/Tephrostratigraphy: the locations of all sites in the database are shown on maps: sites in Europe (including tephra sites and Icelandic volcanic systems) and in Mexico. There are also tools to draw tephostratigraphic profiles and calculate sediment accumulation rates.

Latest Updates

dataARC Logo

The NSF-funded dataARC project is an interdisciplinary effort aimed at linking data from archaeology, paleoenvironment, paleoclimate, and the humanities to more easily address questions on the long-term human ecodynamics of the North Atlantic and beyond. dataARC builds on the pilot cyberNABO project. Pulling in professionals from informatics, data visualization, and the data creators themselves, dataARC is ambitiously creating a data infrastructure and digital tool that will allow scientists to more easily discover, access, link, and understand these data to enable interdisciplinary research, largely building off intensive research performed by the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization. Data from Tephrabase will be integrated into this project. [March 2017]


Donate Data to Tephrabase

In order to help people donate data to Tephrabase, I have created a Word file (form) or PDF file which contain details about the data required. Please download either of the files and either fill in the form or use them to help you include all the information required. Any comments or questions welcome. Please email any data to me, anthony.newton@ed.ac.uk. I intend to create a more flexible online system in the future.