Volcanology

BGS Research

Yasur volcano - Anna Hicks

Our scientists draw on a broad range of expertise across the BGS and from collaborative research worldwide to improve understanding of volcanic processes, hazards and risks.

By nature, volcanic research is multidisciplinary, covering a broad area of physical sciences including atmospheric, earth and marine sciences; remote sensing; numerical and experimental modelling, and data science. We embrace interdisciplinary research and routinely use social science methods in our research. Our scientists lead research projects and work in partnerships both in the UK and internationally.

Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, Iceland May 2010
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Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, Iceland, May 2010. BGS © UKRI.

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Our research relies on our strong in-country partnerships. Through engagement with national to local civil protection agencies, government departments, research institutions, civil society groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the private sector and communities both in the UK and overseas, we are contributing to strategies for disaster risk reduction. We work with national and international government agencies on innovative research and to provide support and scientific advice not only during volcanic unrest, but also in preparation for potential future unrest and eruptions.

BGS Volcanology researchers are improving knowledge and understanding of eruption processes through research and the development of novel computational tools.  Our research involves:

  • field mapping and deposit-characteristic analysis
  • geochronological, petrological and geochemical analyses
  • laboratory- to large-scale experiments
  • numerical and experimental modelling

Volcanoes are multihazard environments with eruptions rarely resulting in just a single hazard. Hazards can occur simultaneously or can be cascading. Our research on volcanic hazard analysis and assessment involves both quantitative and qualitative approaches:

  • deterministic and probabilistic numerical modelling of volcanic ash fall and dispersal; gas dispersal; pyroclastic density currents; lahars, and vent opening
  • probabilistic event trees and statistical emulators
  • development of eruption scenarios, expert elicitation and use of global databases
  • understanding of uncertainties and their implications

Our research aims to provide evidence to support both disaster risk reduction and development, so communities worldwide can live with and benefit from volcanoes.

We work collaboratively across the BGS and with international partners on a range of projects, including:

  • exposure, vulnerability and impact analyses for a range of volcanic hazards
  • effective risk communication through story telling and collaborative film making
  • global reporting of volcanic activity, including providing scientific advice to the UK government and the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism (specifically the Emergency Response Coordination Centre) on volcanic eruptions and their impacts
  • citizen science and its contribution to disaster risk reduction, both in the UK and overseas

In the past, the UK has been affected by volcanic eruptions in Iceland, the most notable being the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull and 2011 Grímsvötn eruptions, which resulted in disruption of air traffic in the North Atlantic and Europe.

BGS scientists respond to volcanic eruptions and contribute to the Scientific Advisory Group in Emergencies (SAGE). We are part of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the UK Met Office and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science in order to enhance scientific collaboration before during and after eruptions.

Our scientists also respond to eruptions worldwide as appropriate, providing advice or a collaborative scientific response.

Need more information?

Please contact the BGS enquiries team

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