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Unit information: Modelling Volcanic Activity in 2021/22

Unit name Modelling Volcanic Activity
Unit code EASCM0053
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1B (weeks 7 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Phillips
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

The focus of this unit is the prediction of volcanic activity, using approaches based on the physics of volcanic processes. The overall aim is to develop an understanding of the application of the fundamental physical principles of conservation of mass momentum and energy as the basis of quantitative predictions of the dynamics of effusive and explosive volcanic activity.

The unit teaching will develop the application of conservation principles to the motion (steady and unsteady) of volcanic fluids, including explosive conduit flow, lava dome growth and degassing, and to the hazardous flows that result, including volcanic plumes and ash clouds, pyroclastic flows, lahars and lava flows. The physical basis of volcano monitoring measurements (volcano seismology, gas emissions, thermal monitoring and volcano acoustics) and the physical impacts of volcanic activity (on infrastructure, aviation and agriculture) will be studied.

The practical work will focus on using state-of-the-art prediction tools to apply the principles and interpret predictions relevant to volcanic impacts.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students should be able to:

  • Describe and debate the application of the fundamental physical conservation laws to the motion of volcanic fluids in the context of volcanic activity, volcanic flows and monitoring measurements
  • Apply the principles of dimensional analysis and basic calculus to solve simplified flow problems relevant to volcanic processes
  • Describe the relationships between different types of volcanic activity, the types of volcanic flows that are produced, and the monitoring methods used to detect them
  • Recognise limitations of physics-based methods and models
  • Apply the principles of mechanics to determine the balance of forces that control the motion of volcanic flows
  • Identify key observations from recent examples of hazardous volcanic flows and use the information as input to simplified models to determine the flow dynamics and transport
  • Evaluate data with computer programmes through calculations and plots

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials and, if subsequently possible, synchronous face-to-face lectures
  • synchronous office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative activities and exercises
  • guided, structured reading
  • practical work in the laboratory

Students who either begin or continue their studies in an online mode may be required to complete laboratory work, or alternative activities, in person, either during the academic year 2020/21 or subsequently, in order to meet the intended learning outcomes for the unit, prepare them for subsequent units or to satisfy accreditation requirements.

Assessment Information

This unit is assessed by EASCM0065 Volcanic Processes, Models and Hazards.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. EASCM0053).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.