New Zealand Quaternary marine and terrestrial sequences contain numerous tephras, or volcanic-ash horizons, that are the distal correlatives of voluminous welded ignimbrite sheets, erupted from central North Island. Electron microprobe analyses of glass shards from the distal tephras demonstrate their homogeneity and are shown to identify each tephra examined. By matching tephras from stratigraphically controlled sequences, the first comprehensive tephra stratigraphy spanning from 50,000 to 700,000 yr ago and covering the New Zealand region is advanced.
Analyses on glass shards from the unwelded base of ignimbrite sheets are comparable to the distal tephra analyses and allow correlation between ignimbrites and to the distal tephras. The better exposed tephra record constrains the number of separate eruptive events and the stratigraphy of the ignimbrites, both of which were previously confused by lack of outcrop.
Samples from pumiceous marine sediments were found to contain two or more chemically distinct populations of glass. The pumice is in cross-bedded sands or sand lenses within conglomerate, attesting to a shallow high-energy environment where reworking could occur. However, each glass population could be matched to older, known tephras.