Volcanology at Leicester

Lava flowing down the side of Stromboli Eruption column

Geology at Leicester, researches in many aspects of volcanology.  Over 12 of our research staff (listed below) have interests in a wide range of topics related to volcanic eruptions and magmatic processes in many different parts of the world, including the Antarctic peninsula, Korea, China, Mongolia, Siberia, Madagascar, East Greenland, Solomon Islands, Central Mexico, Hawaii, the English Lake District, the Faroes, Greece, Turkey, southern Italy, Canary islands, the Scotia Sea, and the Columbia River Basalts and Snake-River Plain regions of the western USA. Topics include emplacement of flood basalts, large explosive eruptions, pyroclastic density currents, magma-water and magma-ice interactions, volcanic instability and collapse, volcanic hydrothermal systems and mineralisation, and magma flow in lavas, sills and dykes. Our approaches range from analytical geochemistry (XRD, XRF, EMP, ICPMS and LA-ICPMS), isotope work (O, Hf, Ar-Ar, U-Pb), SEM and X-ray microtomography, fieldwork, petrogenesis, computer modelling, structural analysis, volcanic stratigraphy, seismic tomography of volcanoes, and laboratory experimentation.

We provide undergraduate and graduate training in several aspects of volcanology including laboratory work and annual residential field courses to Tenerife (Canary Islands), Mount Etna (Sicily) and the Scottish Tertiary Province (Skye, Arran), and post-graduate training in a variety of volcano locations. Our students also organise weekend field trips to study volcanic rocks of Snowdonia, the Lake District, and nearby Charnood Forest.

Volcanology research themes

Volcanology Gallery

Two geologists in silhouette on a snow-covered ridge. A snow-covered mountain, Mt Erebus, is in the background

John Smellie walking a volcanic ridge near Mt. Erebus volcano, Antarctica. Photo by Tim Burton

Cross-cutting igneous intrusions featuring columnar jointing. Several geologists investigating.

Sheeted dykes of the Troodos Ophiolite on Cyprus. Photo by Tiffany Barry

Sea cliff with dark-coloured, columnar jointed basalt contrasting with white limestone.

Milos, Greece. Photo by Dan Smith

Research Staff

Tiffany Barry working in the field in Mongolia
Tiffany Barry working in the field in Mongolia

Dr Tiffany Barry

  • Emplacement and chronology of Columbia River flood basalts, USA
  • Igneous petrogenesis: Mongolia, Scotia Sea, Tenerife, Pantelleria
  • Mantle convection: computer simulation and isotope tracers

Professor Mike Branney

  • Structural evolution of calderas: Scafell, Korea, and central Mexico
  • Structural analysis of rheomorphic ignimbrites, lavas and dykes
  • Large explosive eruptions: Snake River Plain – Yellowstone; Pinatubo, Tenerife; Central Mexico.  Physical processes and effects
  • Ignimbrites, and the sedimentation of pyroclastic density currents
  • Sedimentology of debris-avalanches, lahars and turbidity currents
  • Volcano-water interactions: tuff-rings, phreatoplinian eruptions, atmospheric ash aggregation
Mike Branney in the field
Mike Branney in the field
Dave Holwell at Skaergaard, east Greenland
Dave Holwell at Skaergaard, east Greenland

Dr Dave Holwell

  • Volcanic hydrothermal systems and mineralisation
  • Large mafic intrusions; Bushveld, Skaergaard
  • Fieldwork, geochemistry and mineralogy, e.g. at modern and ancient volcanic arcs

Dr Gawen Jenkin

  • stable and radiogenic isotopes
  • volcanogenic massive suphides
  • fluid flow and cooling around oceanic spreading ridges
  • granites, rapakivi granites, and Carboniferous dykes
  • Ethiopia, Solomon islands, NW Ireland
Gawen Jenkin with epidosite
Gawen Jenkin with epidosite
Marc Reichow on fieldwork in Idaho
Marc Reichow on fieldwork in Idaho

Dr Marc Reichow

  • Correlation, petrology and chronology of Snake River Plain ignimbrites
  • Scale and impact of Siberian Traps flood basalts
  • Petrogenesis of Permian rhyolites in southern Germany

Dr Dan Smith

  • Volcanic hydrothermal systems and mineralisation
  • Solomon Islands (South Pacific), Milos (Greece)
  • Igneous processes in island arcs
  • Sinter and travertine formaiton
Dan Smith in the Solomon Islands
Dan Smith in the Solomon Islands
Dr Richard Walker
Dr Richard Walker

Dr Richard Walker

  • Structural analysis of volcanic rocks
  • Volcanic plumbing systems, sill and dyke emplacement, and magma flow
  • Utah, Faroe Islands, Hawaii
  • Stability of volcanoes: Kilauea (Hawaii), Stromboli
  • Structural evolution of volcanic passive margins

Dr Tom Knott

  • Field and geochemical correlation of Mid-Miocene ignimbrites
  • Explosive rhyolitic super-eruptions, Snake River Plain
  • Rhyolite petrogenesis
Tom at the Snake River - Yellowstone volcanic province, USA
Tom at the Snake River - Yellowstone volcanic province, USA
Phil Leat in Antarctica
Phil Leat in Antarctica

Dr Phil Leat

  • Generation of basalts and mantle melting
  • Generation of granites and crustal melting
  • Evolution of volcanic arcs
  • Magmatic evolution of volcanic rifts and large igneous provinces
  • Submarine volcanic processes
  • Southern Ocean, Scotia Sea, Drake Passage, Antarctica, East African Rift, Rio Grande Rift USA, Snowdonia, Canary Islands.
Andy Saunders
Andy Saunders

Emeritus Professor Andy Saunders

  • Scale and impact of Siberian Traps flood basalts
  • Igneous petrogenesis: Iceland, Southern Ocean, Kerguelen, Madagascar
  • Large igneous provinces and mantle plumes
  • Chair, Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group

Professor John Smellie

  • Volcano-ice interactions: Antarctic peninsula and Iceland.
  • Tuff-rings and phreatomagmatism
  • Volcanic record of ice-level and climate change
John taking a break from fieldwork, Antactica
John taking a break from fieldwork, Antactica

Leicester Publications in Volcanology

  1. Finn, D., Coe, R., Brown, E., Branney, M., Reichow, M.K., Knott, T., Storey, M., Bonnichsen, B., 2016. Distinguishing and Correlating Deposits from Large Ignimbrite Eruptions Using Paleomagnetism: the Cougar Point Tuffs (Mid-Miocene), Southern Snake River Plain, Idaho, USA. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth, doi:10.1002/2016JB012984.
  2. Reichow, M.K., Saunders, A.D., Scott, R.A., Millar, I.L., Barfod, D., Pringle, M.S., Rogers, N.W., Hammond, S., 2016. Petrogenesis and timing of mafic magmatism, south Taimyr, Arctic Siberia: a northerly continuation of the Siberian Traps? Lithos 248‒251, 382‒401.
  3. Knott, T., Reichow, M.K., Branney, M.J., Finn, D., Coe, R., Storey, M., Bonnichsen, B., 2016. Rheomorphic ignimbrites of the Rogerson Formation, central Snake River plain, USA: record of mid-Miocene rhyolitic explosive eruptions and associated crustal subsidence along the Yellowstone hotspot track. Bulletin of Volcanology. DOI 10.1007/s00445-016-1003-x
  4. Knott, T., Branney, M.J., Reichow, M.K., Finn, D., Coe, R., Storey, M., Barfod, D., McCurry, M., 2016. Mid-Miocene record of large-scale Snake River−type explosive volcanism and associated subsidence on the Yellowstone hotspot track: The Cassia Formation of Idaho, USA Geological Society of America Bulletin, doi:10.1130/B31324.1
  5. Finn, D., Coe, R., Kelly, H., Branney, M.J., Knott, T., Reichow, M.K., 2015. Magnetic anisotropy in rhyolitic ignimbrite, Snake River Plain: implications for using remanent magnetism of volcanic rocks for correlation, paleomagnetic studies and geological reconstructions. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 120, 1‒20.
  6. Branney, M.J., Acocella, V. 2015. Calderas. Ch. 16, Encyclopedia of Volcanoes. 2nd Ed. Academic Press. (peer reviewed)
  7. Gales, J.A., Leat P.T., Larter, R.D., Kuhn, G., Hillenbrand, C.-D., Graham, A.G.C., Mitchell, N.C., Tate, A.J., Buys, G.B. and Jokat, W. 2014. Large-scale Submarine slides, channel and gully systems on the southern Weddell Sea margin, Antarctica, Marine Geology, 348, 73-87.
  8. Heap M., Baud P., Meredith P., Vinciguerra S., and Reuschlé T., The permeability and elastic moduli of tuff from Campi Flegrei, Italy: implications for ground deformation, Solid Earth, 5, 25-44, 2014
  9. Holwell, DA, and Keays, RR. 2014. The formation of low volume, high tenor magmatic PGE-Au sulphide mineralisation in closed systems: evidence from precious and base metal geochemistry of the Platinova Reef, Skaergaard Intrusion, east Greenland. Economic Geology, 109 (2)

Current & Recent Volcanology Masters Projects

    Volcanology training on Tenerife
  • Lahar hazard analysis at Merapi Volcano, Indonesia
  • Simultaneously active vents at Scafell caldera volcano, English Lake District
  • Epithermal Au-Ag mineralisation around Kepez caldera volcano, Turkey
  • Chemistry of lavas and sediments from oil wells in the North Sea
  • Volcanic and geochemical evolution of the Shatsky Rise, NW Pacific: IODP Leg 324

Recent Volcanology PhD Projects

For new doctorate projects, see https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/geology/pgstudy/studentships

  • Deformation processes and frictional properties of rocks during caldera collapses and volcano flank landslides.
  • Evolution of explosive eruptions at a strongly peralkaline caldera volcano, Island of Pantelleria, Straits of Sicily.
  • Ash dispersal from ignimbrite-forming super-eruptions in the central Snake River Plain, Yellowstone hot-spot, USA
  • Explosive piecemeal-type calderas: eruption behaviour, periodicity, and volcanic structure at Los Humeros volcano, Central Mexican Volcanic Belt.
  • Physical volcanology of hazardous explosive eruptions at ocean-island volcanoes.
  • Emplacement of hot catastrophic density currents over irregular topography: the volcanology of a recent low aspect-ratio rheomorphic ignimbrite on the island of Pantelleria, Straits of Sicily.
  • Origins of fabrics in density currents and ignimbrites, and their bearing on depositional mechanisms
  • Physical volcanology of explosive super-eruptions of the Snake River Plain region of Idaho, USA

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