Global database of volcanic ash layers

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Earth Sciences


The ocean drilling programme has over the course of several decades sampled sea floor sediment around the World. When a major explosive volcanic eruption happens a layer of volcanic ash deposits on the sea floor and this layer may be preserved in the cores. Thus the cores contain a record of the Earth's volcanic activity often extending back many millions of years. Up to now there is no global compilation of the data on volcanic ash layers and this is the primary purpose of this project. This global database of volcanic ash layers will provide a critical resource for researchers interested in global and regional rates of volcanism and for establishing the age of time horizons in ocean drilling cores.

Planned Impact

The impact will be high as the project provides a major resource for the global ocean drilling community that can use the database for many different purposes. The database is also expected to be of interest to commercial organisations interested in stratigraphy of ocean sediments of volcanic hazards (e.g. insurance sector).


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Description The global database has been completed and includes over 33,000 ash has yet to be analysed.
Exploitation Route too early to say
Sectors Environment

Description They have been used in relation to the assessment of volcanic risk to nuclear facilities in Japan
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description influence on risk assessment for nuclear facilities in Japan
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a guidance/advisory committee
Impact In 2019 courts in Japan ordered the closure of the Ikate power plant in Honshu based on a legal challenge that the power plant might be at risk from a huge volcanic eruption of the Ash volcano. The database was used to support the assessment of the probability of such an event from Aso volcano and to inform an expert group (of which PI Sparks was a member) on this assessment on behalf of SEPCO, one of the Japanese nuclear operators
Title VOLCORE database 
Description The objective of this project was to creat a global database of volcanic ash layers in ocean drilling cores. Over 33,000 entries of ash layers were added. The VOLCORE (Volcanic Core Records) database is a collection of 34,695 visible tephra (volcanic ash and associated products) occurrences that were reported in the initial reports volumes of all of the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP; 1966-1983), the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP; 1983-2003), the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP; 2003-2013) and the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP; 2013-present) up to and including IODP Expedition 381. The combined international drilling programmes (OD) have locations with global coverage. Cored tephra-bearing sediments span timescales from recent to ~150 million years in age. This database is a collection of information about reported visible tephras, including the depth below sea floor, tephra thickness, location, and any reported comments. Where an age-depth conversion model was located, an approximate age was determined for each tephra. The database can be applied to tephrochronology, volcanology, geochemistry sediment transport and palaeoclimatology. The database has been completed and has been deposits in the Pangaea platform (see ( A paper is currently in review describing the database in Nature Scientific Data. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The database will inform the assessment of global rates of very large magnitude eruptions. 
Description talk at school 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk on volcanism and global record from database to schoolchildren at Woolacombe School Somerset
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020