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John Smellie

John Smellie is a volcanologist with principal interests in glaciovolcanism (eruptions beneath ice sheets) and its application to palaeo-ice sheet reconstruction. Prior to moving to Leicester University (UK) in 2010 he spent 35 years working for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), principally as Senior Volcanologist and Leader of many projects. Although his major geographical focus has been the northern Antarctic Peninsula region, he has worked mainly on volcanic and associated glacial sedimentary rocks right across Antarctica, from the sub-Antarctic active volcanic South Sandwich Islands, through thJLS at Cape Washington close viewe Antarctic Peninsula and very remote Marie Byrd Land to East Antarctica (Victoria Land & Transantarctic Mtns). In addition he has worked extensively on glaciovolcanic rocks in Iceland. A prolific author, he has > 200 publications and is editor or co-editor of 13 scientific volumes. (See also RECENT HIGHLIGHTS, below). He is also sole author of an invited comprehensive review of the geology of the entire Antarctic Peninsula region, the first major account for 30 years (published 2021). He has successfully completed 26 field seasons in Antarctica (including as Chief Scientist on two Antarctic cruises) and 10 in Iceland; was awarded a Polar Medal for his scientific research by Her Majesty the Queen (UK); has Antarctic Service Medals from the American and Italian Antarctic Programmes; has three geographical places in Antarctica named after him (by UK and Spain); is co-founder & past Chair of AntVolc, the SCAR Expert Group on Antarctic Volcanism []; serves on the UK National Committee for Antarctic Research; was the Earth Sciences Editor for the journal Antarctic Science, and is on the Editorial Board of Bulletin of Volcanology. In addition to his Leicester professorship, he has also held an honorary chair at Lancaster University and a Departmental Research Fellowship at Aberystwyth University. Current research activities are focused on collaborative studies with geologists of the Italian, American and New Zealand Antarctic programmes aimed mainly at reconstructing critical parameters of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet during the past 20 million years.


Read about 'The secret world of Antarctica's volcanoes', John's blog for the Geological Society in which he discusses the new GSL Memoir on Volcanism in Antarctica and the effect that being a volcanologist in Antarctica has had on his life.

Hear John's February 24 2021 talk about glaciovolcanism: 'Glaciovolcanism - where we are & how we got here'. Available online at

A major new volume on Antarctica's volcanism is now published ( It is is the first to review all of Antarctica’s volcanism, going back to 200 Ma, and the region is still volcanically active. The volume is an amalgamation of in-depth syntheses, which are presented within several distinctively different tectonic settings. Each is described in terms of (1) the volcanology and eruptive palaoenvironments; (2) petrology; and (3) active volcanism, including tephrochronology. There are 31 chapters, involving 56 different authors and co-authors from 8 countries. Each chapter comprises comprehensive descriptions and up-to-the-minute reviews, supported by abundant photographic and diagrammatic illustrations, maps and comprehensive geochemical & isotopic age datasets. [Smellie, J.L., Panter, K.S. and Geyer, A. (eds) Volcanism in Antarctica: 200 million years of subduction, rifting & continental break-up. Geol. Soc. Lond. Mem. 55, 824 pp.]


1. Largest Holocene volcanic eruption in Antarctica identified, dated & tracked right across the continent. Published in Nature Scientific Reports. See Leicester GeoBlog (

2. First comprehensive assessment of glaciovolcanism as the most holistic palaeo-ice proxy: See Smellie, J.L. 2018. Glaciovolcanism - a 21st century proxy for palaeo-ice. In Menzies, J. and van der Meer, J.J.M. (eds) Past glacial environments (sediments, forms and techniques), 2nd edition. Elsevier, Amsterdam, Netherlands, pp. 335-375. [ISBN: 978-0-08-100524-8]

3. First textbook on Glaciovolcanism completed! Smellie, J.L. and Edwards, B.E. 2016. Glaciovolcanism on Earth & Mars. Products, processes and palaeoenvironmental significance. Cambridge University Press, 483 pp. See

4. Paradigm-shifting glaciovolcanic studies resolve a 30 year-old debate about the evolution of thermal regime of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. See Smellie/Rocchi/Wilch/Gemelli/Di Vincenzo/McIntosh/Dunbar/Panter & Fargo. "Glaciovolcanic evidence for a polythermal Neogene East Antarctic Ice Sheet". Published in Geology, 42, 39-41 (2014).

Or see outreach version:

Read about some of John's recent fieldwork in Antarctica:

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