Speleothems as sensitive recorders of volcanic eruptions - the Bronze Age Minoan eruption recorded in a stalagmite from Turkey

S. Badertscher, A. Borsato, S. Frisia, H. Cheng, R. L. Edwards, O. Tüysüz, D. Fleitmann

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Mounting evidence exists that variations in sulphur content in stalagmites are closely linked to changes in volcanic or anthropogenic atmospheric sulphur. The strong dependency of sulphur on soil pH and ecosystem storage, however, can result in a delay of several years to decades in the registration of volcanic eruptions and anthropogenic emissions by stalagmites. Here we present synchrotron-radiation based trace element analysis performed on a precisely-dated section of a stalagmite from Sofular Cave in Northern Turkey. As this section covers the time interval of the intensively studied Minoan volcanic eruption between 1600 and 1650 BC, we can test whether this vigorous eruption can be traced in a stalagmite. Of all measured trace elements, only bromine shows a clear short-lived peak at 1621 ± 25 BC, whereas sulphur and molybdenum show peaks later at 1617 ± 25 and 1589 ± 25 respectively. We suggest that all trace element peaks are related to the Minoan eruption, whereas the observed phasing of bromine, molybdenum and sulphur is related to differences in their retention rates in the soil above Sofular Cave. For the first time, we can show that bromine appears to be an ideal volcanic tracer in stalagmites, as it is a prominent volatile component in volcanic eruptions, can be easily leached in soils and rapidly transferred from the atmosphere through the soil and bedrock into the cave and stalagmite respectively. Highly resolved oxygen and carbon isotope profiles indicate that the Minoan eruption had no detectable climatic and environmental impact in Northern Turkey.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-66
Number of pages9
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Apr 15 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank O.M. Göktürk for developing a computer algorithm for trace element cycle counting. Support of the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant PP002-110554/1 to D. Fleitmann), the U.S. National Science Foundation ( ESH 0502535 to R.L. Edwards and H. Cheng), and National Basic Research Program of China ( NBRP 2013CB955902 to H. Cheng), the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (proposal EC-104 and EC-088 to S. Frisia and A. Borsato), the Gary Comer Science and Education Foundation ( CP41 to R.L. Edwards) and Istanbul Technical University (grant ITU-BAP-332491 to O. Tüysüz) facilitated this work. S. Frisia acknowledges the Australian Synchrotron for funding with its International Synchrotron Access Program scheme her participation to the experiment at the ESRF.


  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Minoan eruption
  • Stalagmite
  • Trace elements
  • Turkey
  • Volcanic eruption


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