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School of Environment, Education and Development

BSc Geography and Geology with a year abroad

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:

Unit code EART30282
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


The course starts by discussing what controls the distribution of volcanoes on Earth. We then examine the anatomy of volcanoes, and review processes of fractional crystallisation which lead to evolution of magma types (already covered in igneous petrology course), followed by a quantitative examination of magma properties, and the relationship between viscosity, crystal volatile content and volcanic behaviour. This is followed by describing and quantifying different types of volcanic activity, eruptive processes on Earth and also in the solar system, and how to interpret eruptive products and deposits. We then examine volcano surveillance methods, and the impact of volcanoes on climate and extinction events.



Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Igneous Petrology EART20131 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


The unit aims to:

allow students to develop an integrated view of volcanic processes from mantle to atmosphere, what controls the distribution and frequency of volcanic eruptions, and the impact of volcanoes on climate.


Teaching and learning methods

Lectures include discussions and group learning.  Lectures are recorded and made available through the blackboard site alongside powerpoints as presented.  The blackboard site contains notes of the content of each lecture and reading list with links to relevant papers. Practicals will involve looking at field samples, reconstructing erupted masses from deposit maps, running through scenarios of eruptive events, e.g. Guadeloupe in 1976, performing numerical simulations of magma ascent and a field class using our own volcanology field equipment.


Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand the processes controlling the formation of volcanoes on Earth
  • Describe current ideas on the anatomy of volcanoes, and how this controls the behaviour and timing of eruptions
  • Accurately quantify the inverse relationship between frequency and explosivity of eruptions
  • Account for the relationships between magma viscosity, crystal volatile content and eruptive styles
  • Explain processes occurring during eruptions, such as pyroclastic density currents and surges
  • Compare and contrast different types of eruption deposit, and explain how the deposits reflect eruption processes
  • Explain strategies for volcano monitoring, and their relative contextual priorities
  • Explain theories accounting for extinction events coincident with large igneous provinces.
  • Describe methods of remote sensing of volcanoes and their application to terrestrial and planetary volcanism


Intellectual skills

  • Have improved their skills in interpreting data and observations from a variety of sources.
  • Be able to apply concepts covered in the course to understand new observations.

Practical skills

  • Understand how to perform a simple interpretation of a volcanic deposit, and to recognise volcanic products
  • Improved understanding of statistical methods and fluid mechanical processes

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Presentation skills
  • Policy making

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided with 15 working days via email, followed by discussion with the course tutor on deman.

Recommended reading

Useful supplements to class material include:

Francis and Oppenheimer, "Volcanoes", OUP (Second Edition)

Haraldur Sigurdsson, Bruce Houghton, Steve McNutt, Hazel Rymer and John Stix, The Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, AP (Second Edition)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 16
Independent study hours
Independent study 74

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Mike Burton Unit coordinator

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