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Join Professor Chris Jackson for Science Breaks as he talks about some of his recent research and answers your questions during our Q&A session.

Join Science Breaks: Exploring volcanoes, old and young on Microsoft Teams

Professor Chris Jackson invites you to Science Breaks!


Volcanoes are hot, loud and scary. As a result we know little of their internal structure or underlying ‘plumbing systems’ and still struggle to predict accurately when they might erupt.

To address this, Chris Jackson, Professor of Basin Analysis at Imperial College London, is looking deep underground at ancient, fossilised volcanoes that preserve a record of events prior to, during, and after their historical eruptions. Using 3D seismic reflection data to X-ray the Earth’s interior, Chris maps out the internal workings of these volcanoes with the aim of better understanding when and how active volcanoes, dotted across the Earth’s surface, may behave.

It’s against this backdrop that Chris was approached by the BBC to take part in a unique adventure. After camping next to an 800 degree lava lake, Chris and his film crew abseiled into Democratic Republic of Congo’s active volcano, Nyiragongo. This adventure was turned into the ‘Expedition Volcano’ documentary, first broadcast by the BBC in 2017.

Since 2017, Chris and his co-workers have continued using 3D seismic reflection data (essentially X-rays of the Earth’s subsurface) to explore the evolution of now-extinct, deeply buried volcanoes. They have shown that giant volcanoes can be underlain by even larger craters, formed as rising magma and associated fluids and gases eroded the still-wet seabed. Lava flows erupting from volcanoes can contain more igneous rock than the volcanic cone itself and even after they are long-extinct, volcanoes can control how gas migrates through the Earth’s crust.

Professor Christopher Jackson is Equinor Professor of Basin Analysis at Imperial College. Having completed his BSc (1998) and PhD (2002) at the University of Manchester, Chris was employed as an exploration research geologist in the Norsk Hydro (now Equinor) research centre, Bergen, Norway. Since moving to Imperial College London in 2004, Chris’ research has focused on using traditional fieldwork techniques and seismic reflection data to study the tectono-stratigraphic analysis of sedimentary basins. When not studying rocks and the ways in which they deform, Chris gives geoscience lectures to the general public and in schools, having appeared on several, Earth Science-focused, television productions and podcasts. Chris is actively engaged in efforts to improve equality, diversity, and inclusivity in Earth Science in particular, and Higher Education in general.

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