Recently discovered Lethe tephra has been proposed as a latest Pleistocene marker bed in Bristol Bay lowland NE to the Cook Inlet region, Alaska, on the basis of correlations involving a single "Lethe average" glass composition. Type deposits in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, however, are chemically heterogeneous-individual lapilli as well as aggregate ash deposits have glass compositions that range from the average mode to much higher SiO2 and K2O. Moreover, a lake-sediment core from the Cook Inlet region contains one ash deposit similar to "Lethe average" and other, closely underlying deposits that resemble a mixture of the average mode and high-Si high-K mode of proximal deposits. Synthesis of previously published radiocarbon ages indicates a major eruption mainly of "Lethe average" mode about 13,000 14C yr BP. As many as six deposits in the Cook Inlet region-five chiefly "Lethe average" mode-range from about 13,000 to 15-16,000 14C yr BP, and an early Holocene deposit in the Bristol Bay lowland extends the minimum age range of Lethe tephra throughout this region to 8000 14C yr BP. Because of the appearance of "Lethe average" composition in multiple deposits spanning thousands of years, we urge caution when using a Lethe-like composition as a basis for inferring a latest Pleistocene age of a tephra deposit in south-central Alaska. Linear variation plots suggest that magma mixing caused the Lethe heterogeneity; multiple magmas were involved as well in other large pyroclastic eruptions such as Katmai (Alaska) and Rotorua (New Zealand). Lethe is an example of a heterogeneous tephra that may be better compared with other tephras by use of plots of individual analytical points rather than by calculating similarity coefficients based on edited data. ?? 2006 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA.
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Stratigraphic and compositional complexities of the late Quaternary Lethe tephra in South-central Alaska