Dr Samantha Engwell

Geologist and volcanologist
BGS Edinburgh


A scientist with experience in bringing together disparate data sets and numerical modelling to understand the physical processes of volcanic eruptions and associated hazard. I use my knowledge of global volcanic activity to inform advisory roles for both the UK and EU governmental institutions. My research combines numerical modelling, statistical and field analysis techniques, to build a picture of past eruptive activity, and inform our understanding of possible future behaviour. I am particularly interested in the application of numerical models, and understanding the uncertainties associated with both a model itself, but also those associated with the input parameters to initiate simulations, and how these uncertainties propagate through to our understanding of the hazardous phenomena. I have conducted field campaigns across Italy, Greece, the Azores, South and Central America, Australia, New Zealand and Ethiopia, focusing on mapping, analysis and interpretation of volcanic deposits. My current projects focus on the use of operational data for informing advice, particularly with relation to ash and aviation, and the formation of tsunamis related to volcanic activity.

Samantha Engwell’s biography

  • 2015 – ongoing: Volcanologist focusing on the physical processes that occur during explosive eruptions and related hazards, and the provision of expert advice to government institutions
  • 2013 –2015: Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher: INGV Sezione di Pisa. Application of numerical models to investigate the formation and rise of coignimbrite plumes
  • 2009 –2013: PhD, University of Bristol: The dynamics of large explosive eruptions
  • 2008 –2009: MSc by Research, Natural Hazards. University of Bristol
  • 2004 –2008: BSc (Honours) 1st class, Geology, University of Edinburgh

Research interests

  • The physical dynamics of volcanic eruptions, from volcanic plumes and ash dispersion to flows including lahars (volcanic mudflows) and pyroclastic density currents
  • Rates of global volcanic activity and characterising volcanic behaviour through use of novel datasets
  • Physical characterisation of volcanic eruptive deposits (stratigraphy, grainsize and componentry) and application of spatial statistical methods for analysis of deposit trends
  • Numerical modelling of eruptive volcanic processes including model development and validation, to appropriate application

Current projects and collaboration

  • NERC-Urgency Grant: Interactions between eruptive activity and sector collapse at Anak Krakatau, Indonesia – an assessment of the 22nd December 2018 event
  • NSF-NERC Caldera-forming eruption generated tsunamis: reassessing observations and data from the 1883 Krakatau eruption for better understanding of the processes that lead to tsunami formation
  • Riftvolc: I am contributing to WP3 which is focused on understanding the future hazard posed by volcanoes in East Africa. My work has involved field analysis of tephra deposits on Corbetti volcano, and analysis to understand the characteristics of past eruptions at this volcano.


Kavanagh, J, Engwell, S, and Martin, S. 2018. A review of laboratory and numerical modelling in volcanology. Solid Earth, 9, 1-41.

Costa, A, Suzuki, Y J, Cerminara, M, Devenish, B J, Esposti Ongaro, T, Herzog, M, Van Eaton, A R, Denby, L C, Bursik, M, de’ Michieli Vitturi, M, Engwell, S, Neri, A, Barsotti, S, Folch, A, Macedonio, G, Girault, F, Carazzo, G, Tait, S, Kaminski, E, Mastin, L G, Woodhouse, M J, Phillips, J C, Hogg, A J, Degruyter, W, and Bonadonna, C. 2016. Results of the eruption column model intercomparison exercise. Journal of volcanology and geothermal research. DOI: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2016.01.017

Engwell, S L, de Michieli Vitturi, M, Eposti Ongaro, T, and Neri, A. 2016. Insights into the formation and dynamics of coignimbrite plumes from one-dimensional models. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 121:6.

Engwell, S, and Eychenne, J. 2016. Deposits and dynamics of plumes associated with pyroclastic density current: importance for atmospheric ash dispersion and sedimentation. Volcanic Ash: Hazard Observation eds.

Mahony, S H, Sparks, R S J, Wallace, L M, Engwell, S L, Scourse, E M, Barnard, N H, Kandlbauer, J, and Brown, S K. 2016. Increased rates of large magnitude explosive eruptions in Japan. G3, 17:7.

Marti, A, Folch, A, Costa, A, and Engwell. S. 2016. Reconstructing the plinian and co-ignimbrite phases of large volcanic eruptions: a novel approach for the Campanian Ignimbrite. Nature Scientific Reports, 6.

de Michieli Vitturi, M, Engwell, S, Neri, A, and Barsotti, S. 2016. Uncertainty quantification and sensitivity analysis of volcanic columns models: results from the integral model PLUME-MoM. Journal of volcanology and geothermal research. DOI: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2016.03.014

Engwell, S, Aspinall, W P, and Sparks, R S J. 2015. Cubic B-splines: an objective method for producing isopach maps and estimating tephra deposit volumes and their uncertainties. Bulletin of Volcanology, 77:61.

Engwell, S L, Sparks, R S J, and Carey, S N. 2014. Physical characteristics of ash layers in the deep-sea realm: The Campanian Ignimbrite eruption. GSL Special Edition: Marine Tephrochronology, 398. DOI: 10.1144/SP398

Maeno, F, Nagai, M, Burden, R, Engwell, S L, Suzuki, Y, and Kaneko, T. 2014. 2014. Constraints on tephra dispersal from andesitic subplinian explosions of Shinmoedake volcano, Kirishima, Japan, on 26-27 January 2011. Bulletin of Volcanology, 76:6.

Engwell, S L, Sparks, R S J, and Aspinall, W P. 2013. Quantifying uncertainties in the measurement of tephra fall thickness. Journal of Applied Volcanology, 2:5. DOI: 10.1186/2191-5040-2-5

Commissioned reports

Jenkins, S, Engwell, S, Mee, K, Faria, B, Loughlin, S, and Vye-Brown, C. 2017. Development of National Disaster Risk Pro les for Sub-Saharan Africa, Cabo Verde: Volcanic Risk. Volcanic hazard report Prepared for World Bank/Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery.

Mee, K, Jenkins, S, Engwell, S, Loughlin, S, Faria, B, and Vye-Brown, C. 2017. Development of National Disaster Risk Pro les for Sub-Saharan Africa, Cabo Verde: Volcanic Risk. Hazard and exposure assessment for selected volcanoes Prepared for World Bank/Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery.


  • Numerical modelling: Pyroclastic Density Currents (Implementation of Bursik & Woods 1996 Model); Volcanic Mud flows (TITAN2D & LAHARZ ); Volcanic eruption columns (PlumeMOM); Ash fall (TEPHRA2 & VOL-CALPUFF)
  • Official advice and reporting on volcanic hazard to government bodies
  • Fieldwork: Identifying, describing and mapping geological units
  • Preparation of geological samples for physical/ geochemical analysis (http://www.ed.ac.uk/geosciences/research/facilities/ionprobe/technical/epoxyresins)
  • Laser grain size analysis (Malvern Mastersizer 2000E)


  • Programming: CRAN R Statistics, FORTAN 90, MATLAB, LaTeX, C-shell Scripting, GMT
  • Model Sensitivity Analysis: DAKOTA
  • Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop


  • Geological Society of London President’s Award 2015
  • Menzies Bicentennial Scholarship

Professional association

  • Fellow of the Geological Society London
  • Member of the European Geophysical Union

Boards and committees

  • 2018 – 2021: Committee Member – Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group

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