Charcoal, a game changer for understanding processes in young volcanic terranes

Map of Waiohinu area, Island of Hawaii, showing the location of the 3,740 year old age. (Courtesy map/Public domain)

Charcoal collected from under the base of a pahoehoe flow in a black sooty zone over orange ash. The black sooty zone represents the region where the vegetation was converted to charcoal. The hammer is approximately 13 inches long. (USGS photo/F. Trusdell)

One of the fundamental premises of geology is that the “key to understanding the future is to understand the past.” In order to forecast how a volcano will behave, geologists must map the deposits from past eruptions and determine the ages of those deposits. Radiocarbon dating is our principal tool of use.