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Nial Peters PhD

Nial Peters PhD

Research Associate

Lava lake dynamics: better understanding through thermal imagery.



  • 2010-2014 PhD Volcanology, Cambridge University, UK
  • 2009-2010 Research Assistant, Mt. Erebus field camp, Antarctica
  • 2007-2009 MSc Space and Plasma Physics, University of Oslo/University Centre in Svalbard, Norway
  • 2007-2009 Technician, Kjell Henriksen Observatory, Svalbard, Norway
  • 2003-2007 BA/MSci Natural Sciences (Physics), Cambridge University, UK


  • PhD Volcanology, Cambridge University, UK
  • MSci Space and Plasma Physics, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Arctic Safety and Survival, University Centre in Svalbard, Norway
  • BA/MSci Natural Sciences (Physics), Cambridge University, UK


Lava lakes provide a somewhat unique opportunity in volcanological studies, providing a visible window into the complex processes occurring within a volcano. Of the three volcanoes worldwide exhibiting long-lived lava lakes, it is Mt Erebus that presents the least difficulty for prolonged study. Situated on Ross Island, Antarctica, the 3700m crater of Mt Erebus has maintained a phonolite lava lake for decades. Previous research has shown correlated periodicity between many of the lake's characteristics, such as surface velocity, gas flux and gas concentration ratios.

My research focusses on the collection and analysis of infra-red imagery of the Mt Erebus lava lake. A new thermal camera installed in 2010 provides higher temporal and spatial resolution data than has been previously possible. These images, together with a large archive of previous data, are analysed using advanced computer vision techniques (in particular, the Dual-Tree Complex Wavelet Transform feature tracking algorithm) to resolve the two dimensional surface velocity of the lake and the spatial distribution of radiative heat loss.

The key issues to be addressed are how the lake periodicity evolves over long time periods, and how lake motion is linked to physical characteristics of the volcano, such as conduit geometry, degassing etc.


Selected publications

  • Peters, N., A. Hoffmann, T. Barnie, M. Herzog, C. Oppenheimer, Use of Motion Estimation Algorithms for Improved Flux Measurements Using SO2 Cameras, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 2014
  • Peters, N., C. Oppenheimer, D. R. Killingsworth, J. Frechette, and P. Kyle. Correlation of Cycles in Lava Lake Motion and Degassing at Erebus Volcano, Antarctica, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 2014
  • Peters, Nial, Clive Oppenheimer, Philip Kyle, and Nick Kingsbury. Decadal Persistence of Cycles in Lava Lake Motion at Erebus Volcano, Antarctica. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 395 (June 1, 2014): 1–12. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2014.03.032
  • Moussallam, Yves, Clive Oppenheimer, Bruno Scaillet, Fabrice Gaillard, Philip Kyle, Nial Peters, Margaret Hartley, Kim Berlo, and Amy Donovan. Tracking the Changing Oxidation State of Erebus Magmas, from Mantle to Surface, Driven by Magma Ascent and Degassing. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 393 (May 1, 2014): 200–209. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2014.02.055
  • Peters, N 2014. AvoPlot: An extensible scientific plotting tool based on matplotlib. Journal of Open Research Software 2(1):e1, DOI: doi:10.5334/
  • Peters, N., Oppenheimer, C., and Kyle, P.: Autonomous thermal camera system for monitoring the active lava lake at Erebus volcano, Antarctica, Geosci. Instrum. Method. Data Syst., 3, 13-20, doi:10.5194/gi-3-13-2014, 2014.
  • Holmes, J. M., B. V. Kozelov, N. J. Peters, C. S. Deehr, D. A. Lorentzen, and F. Sigernes, "Ion velocity filter effect observed in dayside hydrogen aurora", Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L23101, 2009
  • Peters, N. J., Willis, I. and Arnold, N. 2009. A numerical analysis of rapid water transfer beneath Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology, 55(192), 640-650. doi:10.3189/002214309789470923
  • Fred Sigernes, Margit Dyrland, Nial Peters, Dag Arne Lorentzen, Trond Svenøe, Karsten Heia, Sergey Chernouss, Charles Sterling Deehr, and Mike Kosch, "The absolute sensitivity of digital colour cameras", Opt. Express 17, 20211-20220, 2009

External activities

  • Cambridge Volcanology Group