Mount St Helen Study

Studies of lava spines at Mount St. Helens volcano.

The explosive potential of volcanoes is primarily controlled by the quantity of gas in the magma and its ability to escape. Gas can escape from solidified magma through a network of interlinked cracks, and the ease of escape in this way is known as the permeability. In a recent paper published by Gaunt et al. in Bulletin of Volcanology, studies of lava spines at Mount St. Helens volcano, have revealed that although these fracture-networks are relatively permeable at room temperature, at elevated temperatures such as those found in volcanic conduits, this permeability can be substantially reduced. This results was not expect and means that the permeability and explosion potential can change dramatically with changing environmental conditions. More...

Msc class

Palaeoceanography students newsletter article published.

The students: Paul Bridger, Sinéad Lyster and Abigail Hunt discuss their experiences of using an ocean core replicate during a practical for the Palaeoceanography course (GeolGG17/M018). The core covers an interval of dramatic climate change around 55.8 million years ago, termed the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). The students studied the colour changes in the core replica, plotted percent carbonate data and answered a series of questions to determine sedimentological changes through this interval. More...

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Precambrian Research Group

The Precambrian is the informal name for the first 90% of Earth history during which life began its incredibly long journey towards biological complexity. 

This journey culminated in the appearance and diversification of animals between about 750 and 540 million years ago. Sedimentary rocks become increasingly scarce the further back in time one looks. For this reason, Precambrian studies are multidisciplinary by necessity, piecing together clues from a range of fields: geochemistry, palaeobiology, biochemistry, sedimentology, genetics and a range of earth system models (atmospheric, ocean circulation, climate and biogeochemical).

Our research group primarily uses the chemical, mineral and isotopic composition of sedimentary rocks to reconstruct earth system evolution during the two billion year interval from the end of the Archaean Eon (about 2500 million years ago) to the beginning of the Phanerozoic Eon (about 540 million years ago). During this Proterozoic Eon, extraordinary perturbations occurred to our planet’s surface environment. Some disturbances were extreme but transient, such as the ‘Snowball Earth’ intervals of global glaciation. Others caused irreversible changes that shaped the modern earth system, such as the ‘Great Oxidation Event’ and the ‘Neoproterozoic Oxygenation Event’ without which we would not be here today.