Episodes of Aleutian Ridge Explosive Volcanism

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Science  13 Jan 1978:
Vol. 199, Issue 4325, pp. 137-141
DOI: 10.1126/science.199.4325.137


Earlier workers have overlooked deep-sea bentonite beds when unraveling the Cenozoic volcanic history of an area. In the North Pacific, identification of Miocene and older volcanic episodes is possible only if both altered (bentonite) and unaltered ash beds are recognized. Our study, which includes bentonite beds, shows that volcanism on the Aleutian Ridge and Kamchatka Peninsula has been cyclic. Volcanic activity seems to have increased every 2.5 x 106 years for the past 10 x 106 years and every 5.0 x 106 years for the time span from 10 to 20 x 106 years ago. The middle and late Miocene and the Quaternary were times of greatly increased volcanic activity in the North Pacific and elsewhere around the Pacific Basin. The apparent absence of a volcanic record before the late Miocene at Deep Sea Drilling Project site 192 is the result not of plate motion, as suggested by Stewart and by Ninkovich and Donn, but rather of the diagenesis of ash layers.

Major, apparently global volcanic episodes occurred at least twice in the last 20 x 106 years. Yet, only one major glacial epoch (the Pleistocene) has occurred. Therefore, even though glaciation coincided with an increase in Quaternary volcanism, the increased volcanism itself may not have been the primary cause of global cooling.