EarthWord–Tephra

Release Date:

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Image shows gray ash covering cars and a house
Ash buries cars and buildings after the 1984 eruption of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. Credit: USGS

The EarthWord: Tephra

Definition:

  • Tephra is the general name given to anything thrown into the air during a volcanic eruption. It can range from individual ash particles all the way to volcanic bombs.

Etymology:

  • Tephra comes from the Ancient Greek tephra, meaning “ashes.”

Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:

  • The various types of tephra can have far-ranging impacts on the environment and human society. Ash clouds can reach the upper atmosphere, temporarily lowering temperatures and potentially interrupting air travel. Cinders can blanket nearby ecosystems and communities, causing health problems and damaging infrastructure. And volcanic bombs can very actively and directly damage infrastructure.

USGS Use:

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