Skip to main content

A new 14C age for the Oruanui (Wairakei) eruption, New Zealand

  • C. J. N. Wilson (a1), V. R. Switsur (a2) and A. P. Ward (a2)

The Oruanui eruption was the largest known outburst of Taupo volcano, New Zealand, and is among the larger Quaternary eruptions documented. The eruption deposits are variously known as the Oruanui, Wairakei, Kawakawa Tephra, or Aokautere Ash formations, and represent a bulk volume probably exceeding 500 km3. Four new 14C age determinations on carbonized vegetation in the non-welded Oruanui ignimbrite are combined to give a conventional age of 22590±230 yr b.p. Compared with the previously accepted figure of 20000 yr b.p., this new age resolves the anomaly of apparently older 14C ages being obtained from a demonstrably younger New Zealand deposit, and strengthens correlation of this eruption with an Antarctic ice-core acid anomaly. The trace of this eruption has great potential as a time-plane marker in the Antarctic just prior to the last glacial maximum. The close similarity in ages between the Oruanui and a comparable sized eruption (Ito/Aira-Tn) in Japan suggests that this period of activity may represent the best chance of resolving any linkages between large-scale explosive silicic volcanism and climate changes.

Hide All
Aramaki, S. 1984. Formation of the Aira caldera, southern Kyushu, ˜ 22,000 years ago. Journal of Geophysical Research 89, 8485–501.
Barbetti, M. 1980. Geomagnetic strength over the last 50,000 years and changes in atmospheric 14C concentration: emerging trends. Radiocarbon 22, 192–9.
Bray, J. R. 1977. Pleistocene volcanism and glacial initiation. Science 197, 251–4.
Campbell, I. B. 1986. New occurrences and distribution of Kawakawa Tephra in South Island, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 29, 425–35.
Cowie, J. D. 1964. Aokautere Ash in the Manawatu District, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 7, 6777.
Cowie, J. D. & Milne, J. D. G. 1973. Maps and sections showing the distribution and stratigraphy of North Island loess and associated deposits, New Zealand. New Zealand Soil Bureau Report 6.
Devine, J. D., Sigurdsson, H., Davis, A. N. & Self, S. 1984. Estimates of sulfur and chlorine yield to the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions and potential climatic effects. Journal of Geophysical Research 89, 6309–25.
Geddes, A. M., Neall, V. E. & Stewart, R. B. 1981. Recent discovery of the westernmost occurrences of Aokautere Ash and implications for the late Quaternary in Taranaki. In Proceedings of Tephra Workshop (ed. Howorth, R., Froggatt, P. C., Vucetich, C. G., Collen, J. D.), pp. 2932. Wellington: Geology Department, Victoria University of Wellington, Publication 20.
Grant-Taylor, T. L. & Rafter, T. A. 1963. New Zealand natural radiocarbon measurements I–V. Radiocarbon 5, 118–62.
Grant-Taylor, T. L. & Rafter, T. A. 1971. New Zealand radiocarbon age measurements – 6. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 14, 364402.
Grindley, G. W. 1965. The geology, structure, and exploitation of the Wairakei geothermal field, Taupo, New Zealand. New Zealand Geological Survey Bulletin 75.
Hammer, C. U., Clausen, H. B. & Dansgaard, W. 1980. Greenland ice sheet evidence of post-glacial volcanism and its climatic impact. Nature 288, 230–5.
Hogg, A. G., Lowe, D. J. & Hendy, C. H. 1987. University of Waikato radiocarbon dates. I. Radiocarbon 29, 263301.
Huang, T. C., Watkins, N. D., Shaw, D. M. & Kennett, J. P. 1973. Atmospherically transported volcanic dust in south Pacific deep sea sedimentary cores at distances over 3000 km from the eruptive source. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 20, 119–24.
Hume, T. M., Sherwood, A. M. & Nelson, C. S. 1975. Alluvial sedimentology of the Upper Pleistocene Hinuera Formation, Hamilton basin, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 5, 421–62.
Kigoshi, K., Fukuoka, T. & Yokoyama, S. 1972. 14C age of Tsuyama pyroclastic flow, Aira caldera, southern Kyushu, Japan. Bulletin of the Volcanological Society of Japan 17, 18.
Kohn, B. P. 1979. Identification and significance of a late Pleistocene tephra in Canterbury District, South Island, New Zealand. Quaternary Research 11, 7892.
Kohn, B. P. & Glasby, G. P. 1978. Tephra distribution and sedimentation rates in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 21, 4970.
Kyle, P. R. & Seward, D. 1984. Dispersed rhylotic tephra from New Zealand in deep-sea sediments of the Southern Ocean. Geology 12, 487–90.
Kyle, P. R., Palais, J. & Delmas, R. 1982. The volcanic record of Antarctic ice cores: preliminary results and potential for future investigations. Annals of Glaciology 3, 172–7.
Lewis, K. B. & Kohn, B. P. 1973. Ashes, turbidites, and rates of sedimentation on the continental slope of Hawkes Bay. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 16, 439–54.
McGlone, M. S. & Topping, W. W. 1983. Late Quaternary vegetation, Tongariro region, central North Island, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 21, 5376.
McGlone, M. S., Howorth, R. & Pullar, W. A. 1984. Late Pleistocene stratigraphy, vegetation and climate of the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne regions, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 27, 327–50.
Mew, G., Hunt, J. L., Froggatt, P. C., Eden, D. N. & Jackson, R. J. 1986. An occurrence of Kawakawa Tephra from the Grey River valley, South Island, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 29, 315–22.
Mildenhall, D. C. 1976. Exotic pollen rain on the Chatham Islands during the late Pleistocene. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 19, 327–33.
Rhea, K. P. 1968. Aokautere Ash, loess, and river terraces in the Dannevirke district, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 11, 685–92.
Schofield, J. C. 1965. The Hinuera Formation and associated Quaternary events. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 8, 772–91.
Self, S. 1983. Large-scale phreatomagmatic silicic volcanism: a case study from New Zealand. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 17, 433–69.
Self, S. & Healy, J. 1987. Wairakei Formation, New Zealand: stratigraphy and correlation. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 30, 7386.
Self, S. & Sparks, R. S. J. 1978. Characteristics of widespread pyroclastic deposits formed by the interaction of silicic magma and water. Bulletin Volcanologique 41, 196212.
Stewart, R. B. & Neall, V. E. 1984. Chronology of palaeoclimatic change at the end of the last glaciation. Nature 311, 47–8.
Troughton, J. H. 1972. Carbon isotope fractionation by plants. In Proceedings of the Eighth Radiocarbon Dating Conference (compilers Rafter, T. A. & Grant-Taylor, T. L.), pp. E39E57. Wellington: Royal Society of New Zealand.
Vogel, J. C. 1983. 14C variations during the upper Pleistocene. Radiocarbon 25, 213–18.
Vucetich, C. G. & Howorth, R. 1976. Proposed definition of the Kawakawa Tephra, the c. 20000 years BP marker horizon in the New Zealand region. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 19, 4350.
Vucetich, C. G. & Pullar, W. A. 1969. Stratigraphy and chronology of late Pleistocene volcanic ash beds in central North Island, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics 12, 784837.
Wilson, C. J. N., Houghton, B. F. & Lloyd, E. F. 1986. Volcanic history and evolution of the Maroa-Taupo area, central North Island. In Late Cenozoic Volcanism in New Zealand (ed. Smith, I. E. M.), pp. 194223. Wellington: Royal Society of New Zealand, Bulletin 23.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Geological Magazine
  • ISSN: 0016-7568
  • EISSN: 1469-5081
  • URL: /core/journals/geological-magazine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 21 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 183 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.