UCL Earth Sciences


Lara Smale

“The Control of Hydrothermal Systems on Eruption Precursors at Large Volcanic Calderas.”

PhD project title:

The Control of Hydrothermal Systems on Eruption Precursors at Large Volcanic Calderas.

Lara Smale
Project description:

Large calderas are among the most populated volcanoes on Earth. Following their formation they commonly become sites of intra-caldera volcanic activity that are preceded by 10-100 years of episodic unrest caused by pressurisation of magma bodies and an overlying hydrothermal system. Conventionally it is assumed that successive episodes follow similar patterns of behaviour, so that previous unrest provides a reliable basis for designing mitigation strategies, and that the hydrothermal component can be neglected in hazard assessment. However, empirical data suggests that instead large calderas follow a long-term increase in eruptive potential and that both the hydrothermal and magmatic systems can contribute comparable amounts to unrest.

Campi Flegrei, Italy, which has a population of 300 000 people, has undergone four periods of unrest since 1950, thus there is elevated concern that this caldera has entered a new pre-eruptive phase. A long-term evolution in behaviour has become apparent and the hydrothermal signal of unrest is becoming progressively stronger overtime. Using this volcano as a test location, analytical and numerical models will be applied to identify and implement new methodologies for differentiating the hydrothermal component of unrest. The results will be used to prepare scenarios for quantifying eruptive potential from both short and long term patterns of ground deformation.

Background: Lara received an MSci in Geosciences from the University of Durham in 2009. She graduated with a distinction from the UCL MSc in Geophysical Hazards in 2014 and was the recipient of the MAPS faculty postgraduate (taught) prize. Before joining UCL as a research student she also worked as an exploration geologist and as a catastrophe modeller in the London insurance market