In metamorphic petrogenesis; you can infer the occurrence pressure and temperature of the rock from the minerals and other features inside, with various instrumental techniques.

Is there any scientific method (possible a forensic method) which gives the temperature of the burning?

A wood specimen is found in the field and it is known that it was heated before, in some degree, in a volcanic environment and one wants to investigate the heating temperature that the wood had encountered.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Have you had a Look at stable isotops? $\endgroup$
    – Weiss
    Commented Feb 16 at 12:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I image it would need to be done empirically, where samples of different types of wood are burned at different temperatures and their appearances & chemical compositions pre & post burning are noted. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Feb 17 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ Weiss, Stable isotopes (St.Is.) seems promising. Will the C13/C12 value change through the heating of the wood? @Fred, an empiric method may work such as; fixing the duration to 30 minutes and heating samples at 150 C, 200 C, 250, 300 C, 350 C, 400 C, then conducting the stable isotope analyses. If the values show a meaningful relation, one can do St.Is. analysis to original sample. And one can evaluate degree of burning of sample. Which will give location of the wood according to the volcanic vent. Higher degree, show encountering pyroclastic current with wood just around the went. viceversa $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 18 at 11:04

1 Answer 1


There has been a recent study about this: Pensa et al. (2023) used charcoal samples found in the deposits of the 79 CE eruption of Mount Vesuvius to infer the temperature of its pyroclastic density currents. They used reflectance analysis of the charcoal samples, with the maximum reflectance values being associated with the minimum temperature of the peak thermal conditions. You can read the "Charcoal reflectance analysis" section and references therein for more details about this method.

However, bear in mind that you need several charcoal pieces sampled across various sites of your volcanic environment to have a better idea of the heat distribution it experienced while being emplaced. This study found quite a wide range of temperatures depending on the unit considered and/or the location sampled within the same unit. With one wood sample, you'd only have an idea of the temperature this exact location experienced, which is still valuable but cannot be extrapolated to the whole unit.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.