Using tephra layers as absolute and relative chronological markers: an example from Lake Suigetsu, Japan
Abstract:The Lake Suigetsu cores (SG06 and SG14) from Honshu Island, central Japan, provide a high-resolution paleoenvironmental record for the last ~200 kyrs. The composite record is ~85 m-long and it contains numerous tephras, more than 35 visible and numerous non-visible layers (cryptotephra).
The major and trace element glass chemistry of these tephras allows the layers to be correlated to specific eruptions and tephra layers in other archives . The record preserves large eruptions from volcanoes from Kyushu, Honshu, South Korea, and smaller explosive events from more proximal volcanoes, Daisen and Sanbe. The Lake Suigetsu has a very detailed varve and radiocarbon chronology  that has been exploited to provide precise ages for the tephra layers from the last 50 kyrs . These ages can constrain the tempo of volcanic activity, and the age models of other sedimentary (paleoenvironmental and archaeological) records that contain the tephra.
The deeper parts of the Suigetsu core are not continuosly annually laminated and are outside the radiocarbon timeframe and therefore do not have a well constrined chronology. The tephra layers can be used to provide an absolute chronology as eruption deposits from South Korea, Daisen and Sanbe often contain K-rich crystal phases, which can be dated using 40Ar/39Ar methods. Correlating these distal tephra layers in Lake Suigetsu to proximal deposits, using the glass chemistry, is essential as large crystals are required to obtain precise 40Ar/39Ar ages and these are only abundant in the coarser proximal deposits [3, 4].
These widespread marker layers can be also be used for relative chronology. Identifying the same tephras in disparate high-resolution archives allows them to be directly compared so that leads and lags in paleoclimate can be identified on the regional to continental scale, providing some insight into the fundamental drivers of the Earth’s climate system.
References:  Smith et al. (2013) Quaternary Science Reviews 67, 121-137.  Bronk Ramsey et al. (2012) Science 338, 370-374.  Smith et al. (2011) Quaternary Science Reviews 30, 2845-2850.  Mark et al. (2014) Quaternary Geochronology 21, 90-103.