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 multi-hazard 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.

Find out more about our research

BGS Global Geoscience

International geoscience

BGS is active across the globe delivering institutional strengthening programmes and applied research projects across a wide variety of sectors.

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Pyroclastic flow engulfing a house in Monserrat

Global geological risk

Our research focuses on characterising complex, multi-hazard processes with the aim of improving resilience of communities to hazards.

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ESA satellite

Geodesy and Earth Observation

We develop and use innovative Earth observation (EO) techniques to characterise and monitor Earth processes that impact lives and livelihoods.

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In 1979, the the A625 road was permanently closed to traffic and what remains today is an interesting example of landslide movement and repeated road reconstruction and repair.

Shallow geohazards

Measuring, recording and analysing near-surface geological hazards including landslides, sinkholes and discontinuities.

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Debris pathway downslope, partly netted. Debris on the railway line has been cleared and the line is in the process of being repaired.


The BGS landslides team is involved in many aspects of landslide research, with the primary objective of building resilience both in the UK and internationally.

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Pathways to Action

The ‘Pathways to Action’ project aims to characterise flows of communication within and between communities to help reduce multi-hazard risk.

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Our projects

Large ash aggregate - halite and glass

Ash collection

In the event of an eruption in Iceland volcanic emissions may affect the UK. If they do, we need you to collect observations and samples to help us learn about the nature of the eruption.

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Lahar car Plymouth, Monserrat

Volcanic debris flows

Debris flows, also known as lahars when they involve volcanic material, are mixtures of sediments and water that flow down the slopes in response to gravity.

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Eyjafjallajokull volcano

Eruption source parameters

Eruption source parameters (ESPs) are those parameters that describe the initiation condition for numerical models. Different models require different input parameters; the quality of model outputs is dependent on the quality of model inputs.

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Montserrat pyroclastic flow

Pyroclastic density currents

Pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) are perhaps the most hazardous events to local areas during explosive volcanic eruptions.

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Volcanic plume

Modelling of volcanic ash

Volcanic ash in the atmosphere is a hazard particularly for civil aviation. Atmospheric dispersion models are used to predict volcanic ash transport.

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Drone imagery of Anak Krakatau

Understanding eruptive activity and related hazards at Krakatau volcano

The BGS is involved in research to understand eruptive processes and implications for tsunami initiation at Krakatau.

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Fault scarp


The BGS is researching past and current volcanism and volcanic hazards in the Main Ethiopian Rift.

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The ARISTOTLE-ENHSP project delivers multi-hazard advice capability to the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC).

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European volcanoes


EUROVOLC will construct a European volcanological community able to fully support, exploit and build upon existing and emerging national and pan-European volcano research.

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Lava plain

Geoscience in the Overseas Territories

The UK’s 14 Overseas Territories (UKOTs) are highly diverse islands, geographically dispersed around the world in different climate zones. Most are small islands that are particularly vulnerable to natural hazards and climate change.

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Citizen science for multi-hazards and disaster risk reduction

We are using citizen science for people to develop a shared understanding of hazardous phenomena and for communities to contribute to hazard forecasting and early warning.

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Jupiter Artland

Landscapes of the mind

‘Landscapes of the Mind’ is a network of people with a common interest in landscapes, particularly those in Scotland! Our network aims to contribute to an evidence base to support decision making about landscape, as well as open up dialogue about the contribution and importance of the arts in environmental research.

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