• Lecturer: Dr. Dario Pedrazzi, Geociencias Barcelona-CSIC
  • Date: 26 January 2021; 12:00 h
  • Venue: Online (via Conecta:
  • Further information:Dr.Juan Alcalde (GEO3BCN-CSIC)

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In 431 AD, the Mayan civilization was devastated by the violent eruption of the Ilopango volcano, located in what is now El Salvador. The eruption called TBJ, “Tierra Blanca Joven-Young White Earth” due to the characteristic whitish color of the deposits, produced a total volume of magma of approximately 55 km3, with the formation of dense and dilute Pyroclastic Density Currents, with associated caldera collapse and the formation of a coignimbritic column that reached the stratosphere.

The recently work published by Smith et al. (2020) has allowed to accurately dated this eruption to AD 431. (with a margin of error of two years), thanks to the identification of ash fragments from the TBJ eruptive column found inside an ice core in Greenland. This dating has been correlated with the interval obtained with the Carbon 14 method on the remains of trees "in situ", i.e. found in the deposits of the eruption. The sulfur content of volcanic origin found in the cores of Polar ice has also revealed a decrease in global temperatures of around half a degree Celsius in the years after the eruption.

Thanks to the use of a 3D model, it has been possible to estimate the dispersion of the ash and the height of the eruptive column capable of reaching 45 kilometers, transporting volcanic products for more than 7,000 km to polar latitudes.

Further information

Smith, V., et a l'(2020)., The magnitude and impact of the 431 CE Terra Blanca Jove eruption of Ilopango, El Salvador. PNAS. doi:

Pedrazzi, D., Sunye-Puchol, I., Aguirre-Díaz, G., Costa, A., Smith, V. C., Poret, M., … Gutiérrez, E. (2019). The Ilopango Tierra Blanca Joven (TBJ) eruption, El Salvador: Volcano-stratigraphy and physical characterization of the major Holocene event of Central America. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 377, 81–102.

Suñe-Puchol, I., Aguirre-Díaz, G. J., Pedrazzi, D., Dávila-Harris, P., Miggins, D. P., Costa, A., … Hernández, W. (2019). The Ilopango caldera complex, El Salvador: Stratigraphic revision of the complete eruptive sequence and recurrence of large explosive eruptions. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 374, 100–119.

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