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Differentiating the Bishop ash bed and related tephra layers by elemental-based similarity coefficients of volcanic glass shards using solution inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (S-ICP-MS)

January 1, 2007

Volcanic glass samples from the same volcanic center (intra-source) often have a similar major-element composition. Thus, it can be difficult to distinguish between individual tephra layers, particularly when using similarity coefficients calculated from electron microprobe major-element measurements. Minor/trace element concentrations in glass can be determined by solution inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (S-ICP-MS), but have not been shown as suitable for use in large tephrochronologic databases. Here, we present minor/trace-element concentrations measured by S-ICP-MS and compare these data by similarity coefficients, the method commonly used in large databases. Trial samples from the Bishop Tuff, the upper and lower tuffs of Glass Mountain and the tuffs of Mesquite Spring suites from eastern California, USA, which have an indistinguishable major-element composition, were analyzed using S-ICP-MS. The resulting minor/trace element similarity coefficients clearly separated the suites of tephra layers and, in most cases, individual tephra layers within each suite. Comparisons with previous instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) elemental measurements were marginally successful. This is important step toward quantitative correlation in large tephrochronologic databases to achieve definitive identification of volcanic glass samples and for high-resolution age determinations. ?? 2007 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA.