22 Dec 2021
22 Dec 2021
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HGSS.

The international tephra research group ‘Commission on Tephrochronology’ and its activities – the first 60 years

David J. Lowe1, Peter M. Abbott2, Takehiko Suzuki3, and Britta J. L. Jensen4 David J. Lowe et al.
  • 1School of Science/Te Aka Mātuatua, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
  • 2Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Department of Geography, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Tokyo, Japan
  • 4Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Abstract. Modern tephra studies per se began almost 100 years ago (in the late 1920s) but the first collective of tephrochronologists, with a common purpose and nascent global outlook, was not formed until 7 September, 1961, in Warsaw, Poland. On that date, the inaugural ‘Commission on Tephrochronology’ (COT) was ratified under the aegis of the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA). COT’s formation can be attributed largely to the leadership of Kunio Kobayashi of Japan, the commission’s president for its first 12 years. We were motivated to record COT’s heritage for posterity and also because the discipline of tephrochronology, including the study of cryptotephras, continues to grow globally at a significant rate. This is recognition of tephrochronology as both a unique correlational and age-equivalent dating method, and as a complementary method in other fields, such as volcanology, in which tephra research has been employed to develop eruption histories and hazards and to help understand volcano-climate interactions. In this article, we review the history of COT (which also functioned under other names, abbreviated as COTS, CEV, ICCT, COTAV, SCOTAV, INTAV) under the umbrella of INQUA for 53 of the last 60 years, or under IAVCEI (International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior) for seven of the last 60 years, including since 2019. We describe the development of the commission and its subsequent activities that include organising nine specialist tephra-field meetings in seven different countries, numerous conference sessions or workshops, and generating tephra-themed issues of journals/books or specialist internet documents or websites. The commission began to prosper after 1987 when key changes occurred, and it has blossomed further, especially in the past decade or so as an entire new cohort of specialists has emerged alongside new analytical and dating techniques to become a vibrant global group today. We name 29 elected officers involved with COT since 1961 and their roles, and 15 honorary life members. We also document the aims of the commission and conclude by evaluating its legacies and current and future work.

David J. Lowe et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hgss-2021-22', Raymond Cas, 25 Jan 2022
  • AC1: 'Comment on hgss-2021-22', David Lowe, 02 Feb 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on hgss-2021-22', Anonymous Referee #2, 25 Apr 2022
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC2', David Lowe, 04 May 2022

David J. Lowe et al.

David J. Lowe et al.


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Short summary
The Commission on Tephrochronology, formed in 1961, comprises global researchers who characterize, map, and date tephra (volcanic ash) layers and use them stratigraphically as linking and dating tools in geological, palaeoenvironmental, and archaeological research. We review the commission’s history – its growth, leadership, and activities for 60 yrs that include hosting specialist meetings, symposia, and workshops, developing new analytical and dating methods and protocols, and supporting ECRs.