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Department of Geography

 

 

Volcanology

Volcanological research in Cambridge flourishes across the University and is networked through Cambridge Volcanology. The Department of Geography is one of the discipline's main hubs along with the Department of Earth Sciences. Research interests range from magmatic evolution, degassing and eruption to impacts of volcanism on the Earth system and society, and to the role of scientific expertise in risk management. Many of the studies underway sit at the interface between volcanology and other disciplines, including atmospheric science, archaeology, environmental history, engineering, and science and technology studies. Methodologies include field observation using a variety of thermal imaging, spectroscopic and radar equipment; numerical simulation; physical volcanology; sediment coring and tephrastratigraphy; dendrochronology; petrology and geochemistry.

Research projects

Research projects currently being undertaken on this theme include:

Into the Inferno

Into the Inferno

A film by Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer. Screened at the Telluride Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival (international première), Rome Film Festival, DOC NYC, Cambridge Film Festival, all in 2016.

Mount Paektu Geoscience Group

Mount Paektu Geoscience Group

This project has been running in earnest since 2013 and involves many partners in the DPR Korea, PR China, the UK and USA. It is focused on understanding the origins, deep structure, past eruptions, and hazards of Mount Paektu (aka Changbaishan or Tianchi volcano), which is situated on the international border between DPR Korea and the PR China.

Our way to Europe: culture-environment interaction and human mobility in the Late Quaternary

Our way to Europe: culture-environment interaction and human mobility in the Late Quaternary

This project includes a focus on the Tibesti mountains of northern Chad, and brings together geologists, archaeologists and volcanologists.

Tourism and Cultural Heritage: A Study of Franz Junghuhn

Tourism and Cultural Heritage: A Study of Franz Junghuhn

This project focuses on the work and travels of Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn (1809–64) who, among other things, studied the volcanoes of Java. We use Junghuhn as an imaginary guide and as an exemplary figure in order to find out more about the relation between tourism, travel, research, and about the way sites have been transformed into sights and tourist attractions.

Centre for Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET)

Centre for Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET)

COMET’s aim is to exploit Earth Observation and other data to improve understanding of volcanic and tectonic processes and hazards. Among other volcanoes being investigated is Mount Erebus, Antarctica.

Unseen but not unfelt: resilience to persistent volcanic emissions (UNRESP). Case study from Masaya volcano, Nicaragua

Unseen but not unfelt: resilience to persistent volcanic emissions (UNRESP). Case study from Masaya volcano, Nicaragua

This project, supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund, is concerned with the impacts of persistently degassing volcanoes on fumigated areas. Many volcanoes emit gases and aerosol that affect downwind communities, infrastructure and agricultural land. Among them is Masaya volcano in Nicaragua, which is the focus of this project. The aims are to improve the livelihoods of those affected by sustained volcanic emissions through a coordinated approach of scientists, government agencies and local communities. There are several partners on this project not listed above.

Understanding lava lakes using a novel radar altimeter

Understanding lava lakes using a novel radar altimeter

This project investigates the behaviour of lava lakes, and focuses on two contrasting ‘laboratory volcanoes’ (Kīlauea and Erebus). While both volcanoes host lava lakes, their magma properties differ significantly in terms of composition, crystal content, viscosity and degassing styles.

Nature and impacts of Middle Pleistocene volcanism in the Ethiopian Rift

Nature and impacts of Middle Pleistocene volcanism in the Ethiopian Rift

The East African Rift has been the focus of decades of research into human origins. Numerous hypotheses have been proposed to link characteristics of the Rift environment and climatic change to hominin speciation events. While these hypotheses have stimulated considerable efforts to obtain palaeoclimatic evidence, comparatively little attention has been paid to the role that geological processes (i.e., tectonics and volcanism) have played in shaping Rift habitability.

Mechanisms and implications of the 2011 eruption of Nabro volcano, Eritrea

Mechanisms and implications of the 2011 eruption of Nabro volcano, Eritrea

The 2011 eruption of Nabro volcano in Eritrea is of great scientific interest and has had substantial impacts in the remote part of Afar in which it is located. The main aims of the project are to arrive at a detailed synthesis of the nature and causes of the eruption, to evaluate the events in the context of understanding restless calderas worldwide, and to compare and contrast activity of Nabro with the fissural basaltic systems that have been the focus of research by the NERC Afar Consortium.

Book: Eruptions that shook the world

Book: Eruptions that shook the world

A primary aim of this book is to examine the claims that volcanism shaped prehistoric and historic social trajectories. To do this, we need to look at how volcanoes act on a very large scale, and how often do they do it. The book also delves into the deeper geological record to explore the links between volcanism and mass extinctions identified in the fossil record.

Effects of Volcanoes in the Atmosphere

Effects of Volcanoes in the Atmosphere

This project examines the various ways in which volcanoes affect atmospheric processes.

Earlier projects