Petrology and volcanology

Internal description

Volcanoes produce Earth's hydrosphere and atmosphere, and threaten the lives of millions around the world. Our volcanic process research improves our understanding of geochemical cycles and helps to mitigate risks posed by eruptions. Our petrology research reveals the history of volcanic rocks, studies intrusive magmatic processes and probes how sedimentary rocks transform under high pressure.


The petrology and volcanology group combines research into igneous, metamorphic and volcanic processes to understand geochemical cycling between the Earth's interior and surface environments. We integrate geological observations from field work, petrology and geochemical microanalyses, with experiments and numerical modelling. Current research in our group includes:

- Remote sensing of volcanic plumes. We develop new instrumentation for measuring gas compositions and ash concentrations at erupting or outgassing volcanoes, and use remote sensing data from satellites to monitor volcanic gas outputs.

- Magma chamber processes. We use a range of petrological and geochemical techniques to reveal the history of volcanic rocks, including analyses of melt inclusions to model the chemical and physical processes occurring in the lead-up to volcanic eruptions.

- Layered intrusions. We use isotope geochemistry, microanalysis and numerical modelling to understand the compositional evolution of layered intrusions, including the formation of economically important mineral deposits.

- Experimental petrology. We use high-pressure, high-temperature experiments to model metamorphic reactions under subduction zone conditions, and to quantify the equilibrium and disequilibrium processes that occur during magma ascent.

- Numerical modelling. We use mathematical parametrizations of melt crystallization, degassing and fragmentation to model conduit processes in volcanoes, and their effects on eruption style and intensity.

We have a well-equipped experimental petrology laboratory; a workshop for developing remote sensing equipment; and a range of laboratories for the preparation and geochemical analysis of rocks and minerals.

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