2018-2019 Science Planning Summaries
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2018-2019 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

A test of global and Antarctic models for cosmogenic-nuclide production rates using high-precision dating of 40 Ar/39 Ar lava flows from Mount Erebus

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G-066-M Research Location(s): Mount Erebus


Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Douglas Kowalewski

ASC POC/Implementer:
Jenny Cunningham / Jennifer Blum

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Fred M Phillips
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Department of Earth and Environmental Science
Socorro, New Mexico


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Mount Erebus


Determining the age of Earth’s surface rocks and soils can help answer human-welfare questions, including: What is the eruption history of a volcano and is it likely to erupt again? When did glaciers advance and what do they tell us about climate? What is the frequency of landslides, floods, and debris flows? How long does it take soils to form and is erosion of soils going to make farming unsustainable? To address these questions, researchers will use the "cosmogenic surface-exposure dating" method. This method takes advantage of cosmic rays produced by supernovae that constantly bombard Earth's atmosphere. Some cosmic rays reach Earth's surface and produce nuclear reactions that result in rare isotopes. Measuring the isotope quantity will enable researchers to calculate the length of time that the rock or soil has been exposed to the atmosphere.

Field Season Overview

This one-season project will include a team of three grantees and a mountaineer to make helicopter close-support day trips from McMurdo Station to sample lava flows at multiple sites on the flanks and near the summit of Mount Erebus. The team will collect rock samples at those locations and use 40 Ar/39 Ar dating methods to determine eruption ages of the lavas. They will then use these to calibrate the cosmogenic ages from the same samples.

Deploying Team Members

  • Christine Burrill
  • Philip Kyle
  • David Parmelee
  • Alasdair Turner