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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Volcanic edifice collapse: processes, timing, and impact on volcano evolution

Currently Active: 

Volcanic flank collapses produce some of the largest landslides known on Earth. They pose a range of hazards, being potentially associated with explosive eruptions, and also capable of generating large tsunamis in the case of island or coastal volcanoes. The processes that determine the magnitude and frequency of flank collapses, and the relative timing of collapses in the evolution of individual volcanoes, are poorly understood. Ongoing work in Montserrat, Mexico and southern Chile aims to improve our understanding of these events.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Landslide processes

At Montserrat, landslides generated by collapse can be imaged in the marine stratigraphy around the island. The way in which these landslides formed is key to accurately understanding the tsunami hazard that they posed. Geophysical data show that collapses occurred in multiple stages, and entrained material from the seafloor. Sediment cores are being used to extend this work, providing more detail on the mechanisms of collapse, and a context for the relative timing of collapses during the lifetime of Montserrat's volcanoes.


Figure 2
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 3

Volcano evolution

There is evidence that large flank collapses, which remove a large load from the underlying magma storage system, may initiate sharp changes in the activity of volcanoes, changing the style and frequency of subsequent volcanism. Ongoing work is exploring these processes, by studying the compositional properties of volcanic rocks before and after collapse, by investigating changes in magma storage conditions, and by modelling the physical effects of rapid surface unloading on the magma storage system.

Figure 4
Figure 4

Key Contacts

Dr Sebastian Watt 

Dr Michael Cassidy

PhDs and Other Opportunities


Key Publications

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