Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Volcanic Processes
Academic Year
Semester 2
Reading List
External Examiners
  • Professor Karen Hudson-Edwards (Professor - University of Exeter)
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 11 x 3 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Written project  Practical exercise (ArcGIS exercise aimed at forecasting potential lahar inundation areas)   40%
Semester Assessment Real time crisis exercise  Problem solving and presentation in groups.   30%
Semester Assessment Written report  Reflection on decision making in crisis exercise (1500 words)   30%
Supplementary Assessment Written project  Practical exercise (ArcGIS)   40%
Supplementary Assessment Written report  Report on a key topic from the course (2000 words) – in lieu of the real time crisis exercise   30%
Supplementary Assessment Written report  Reflection on crisis exercise   30%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Outline the main tectonic controls on volcanism.

2. Assess the importance of; viscosity, volatile content and magma chemistry on the explosivity of magmas.

3. Explain the different hazards associated with varying types of volcanic activity.

4. Describe the main methods of monitoring at volcanoes and how this information is used in decision-making and eruption preparedness.

Brief description

The aim of this module is to provide an introduction to physical volcanology and to the potential impacts volcanic eruptions can have on populations worldwide.
Students will be introduced to; the main types of volcanoes and tectonic environments, controls on volcanic processes, potential hazards associated with volcanoes (proximal and distal), methods for monitoring volcanoes and complexities in decision making.
This module will make use of recent case studies to introduce students to the most up to date literature in the field and current areas of debate.


Lectures will cover the following themes: Volcanic Environments, Magmas, Volcanic Eruptions, Volcanic Products (which will be tied to assessed coursework, using ArcGIS to forecast lahar impacts), Explosive Volcanism and Caldera Formation, Volcanic controls on climate, Volcano Monitoring, Eruption Forecasting and Decision Making (a volcanic crisis exercise will be incorporated into the final course assessment of this course).

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Interpretation of numerical and graphical data is integral to the interpretation of geophysical monitoring data. This will be covered in lecture and seminar material.
Communication Students will be expected to work as part of a team during a simulation exercise (seminar session) that aims to re-create the complexity of managing a volcanic crisis. In their teams, students will be asked to discuss data and agree on a course of action (under time constraints). They will then describe to the rest of the class what course of action they have taken, and why.
Improving own Learning and Performance Independent reading and self-critique of parameters chosen for the project work will be encouraged. There will be detailed feedback from project work.
Information Technology Additional reading is integral to the module and alongside provision of reading lists, students will be expected to use information technology to search for relevant online or hard copy material. One of the key assessment components will be based in ArcGIS, which will also strengthen students’ information technology skills.
Personal Development and Career planning Upon completion of this module students will have a solid grounding in key aspects of volcanology research and applied skills. They will also have been introduced to the complex nature of decision-making in the context of uncertainty. Skills which are transferable to many professions.
Problem solving The ability to recognize the key drivers in different types of volcanism and how these affect the hazards that are generated at a volcano will provide key problem solving skills. In lectures and the practical, students will need to interpret the significance of this data in the context of understanding volcanic history and decision making in crisis periods.
Research skills The students will be required to complete additional research to complete the assessed practical exercise. Library resources and the internet will be used as sources for this project.
Subject Specific Skills This course will develop skills in; the theory of geophysical monitoring, igneous petrology, physical volcanology and complexity in decision-making. Students will be encourage to make conceptual links between each of these areas.
Team work Team work is embedded in the simulation exercise (as described above).


This module is at CQFW Level 6