Dr Sebastian Watt DPhil

Dr Sebastian Watt

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Lecturer in Earth Sciences
Undergraduate Admissions Tutor (Earth Sciences programmes)

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Watt’s research investigates the physical and chemical processes that control the behavior and long-term development of volcanoes. Most of this work focuses on volcanism in subduction zones. Current projects include tephrochronological reconstructions of past explosive eruptions, studies of large-scale volcanic landslides and their associated hazards, and the chemistry and evolution of monogenetic volcanic systems.


BA MSci (2006) – University of Cambridge, Natural Sciences (Physical/Geological)
DPhil (2010) – University of Oxford, Department of Earth Sciences


Dr Watt's research investigates the physical and chemical processes that control the behavior and long-term development of volcanoes. After completing a DPhil at the University of Oxford, investigating explosive eruption records in southern Chile, he moved to Southampton to study volcanic landslide processes offshore Montserrat, and was a NERC Postdoctoral Reserach fellow there from 2011. He moved to the University of Birmingham in 2013. Most of his current reserach focuses on volcanism in subduction zones. Current projects include tephrochronological reconstructions of past explosive eruptions and investigations of large-scale volcanic landslides and their associated hazards. Much of this research is based on fieldwork, including projects in central Mexico, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. Several of these projects are cross-disciplinary, combining physical and chemical analyses of volcanic samples with modelling and geophysical datasets to investigate volcanic processes. Dr Watt's research also draws upon marine data and observations in my research, and he has participated in recent expeditions offshore Montserrat and Ritter Island, Papua New Guinea. He was awarded the EGU Arne Richter award in 2014, and the Murchison Fund of the Geological Society in 2015.

Postgraduate supervision

Sebastian Watt has research interests in the following areas:

Tephrochronology and long-timescale volcanic eruption records
Volcanic edifice collapse, landslide processes and associated hazards
Feedbacks between volcanic construction/destruction and magmatic processes, and the influence of external (e.g. climatic) processes on volcanism.
Mafic and monogenetic arc volcanism
Environmental impacts of volcanic eruptions
The application of statistical methods to geological datasets

Those interested in postgraduate research are encouraged to contact Dr Watt via email to discuss potential projects and opportunities.


Physical volcanic processes

Volcanic landslide and tsunami hazards

Tephrochronology and explosive eruption processes

Volcanic edifice stability

Long-term development and eruptive behaviour of volcanic systems

Other activities

  • 2015-2018 Committee Member, Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group
  • 2013- Subject Editor in Igneous Geology and Physical Volcanology, Journal of the Geological Society


Recent publications


Grilli, ST, Zhang, C, Kirby, JT, Grilli, AR, Tappin, DR, Watt, SFL, Hunt, JE, Novellino, A, Engwell, S, Nurshal, MEM, Abdurrachman, M, Cassidy, M, Madden-nadeau, AL & Day, S 2021, 'Modeling of the Dec. 22nd 2018 Anak Krakatau volcano lateral collapse and tsunami based on recent field surveys: Comparison with observed tsunami impact', Marine Geology, vol. 440, 106566. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2021.106566

Sunyé-Puchol, I, Hodgetts, A, Watt, S, Arce, JL, Barfod, DN, Mark, DF, Sosa-Ceballos, G, Siebe, C, Dymock, RC, Blaauw, M & Smith, VC 2021, 'Reconstructing the middle to late Pleistocene explosive eruption histories of Popocatépetl, Iztaccíhuatl and Tláloc-Telapón volcanoes in Central México', Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research.

Kühn, M, Karstens, J, Berndt, C & Watt, S 2021, 'Seismic reconstruction of seafloor sediment deformation during volcanic debris avalanche emplacement offshore Sakar, Papua New Guinea', Marine Geology, vol. 439, 106563. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2021.106563

Hunt, JE, Tappin, DR, Watt, SFL, Susilohadi, S, Novellino, A, Ebmeier, SK, Cassidy, M, Engwell, SL, Grilli, ST, Hanif, M, Priyanto, WS, Clare, MA, Abdurrachman, M & Udrekh, U 2021, 'Submarine landslide megablocks show half of Anak Krakatau island failed on December 22nd, 2018', Nature Communications, vol. 12, no. 1, 2827. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-22610-5

Madden-nadeau, AL, Cassidy, M, Pyle, DM, Mather, TA, Watt, S, Engwell, SL, Abdurrachman, M, Nurshal, MEM, Tappin, DR & Ismail, T 2021, 'The magmatic and eruptive evolution of the 1883 caldera-forming eruption of Krakatau: Integrating field- to crystal-scale observations', Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, vol. 411, 107176. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2021.107176

Watt, S 2020, 'A Hybrid Lister-Outrigger probe for rapid marine geothermal gradient measurement', Earth and Space Science, vol. 8, no. 1. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020EA001327

Karstens, J, Kelfoun, K, Watt, SFL & Berndt, C 2020, 'Combining 3D seismics, eyewitness accounts and numerical simulations to reconstruct the 1888 Ritter Island sector collapse and tsunami', International Journal of Earth Sciences, vol. 109, no. 8, pp. 2659-2677. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00531-020-01854-4

Cox, D, Watt, S, Jenner, FE, Hastie, A, Hammond, SJ & Kunz, BE 2020, 'Elevated magma fluxes deliver high-Cu magmas to the upper crust', Geology. https://doi.org/10.1130/G47562.1

Novellino, A, Engwell, SL, Grebby, S, Day, S, Cassidy, M, Madden-nadeau, A, Watt, S, Pyle, D, Abdurrachman, M, Edo Marshal Nurshal, M, Tappin, DR, Andri Kurniawan, I & Hunt, J 2020, 'Mapping recent shoreline changes spanning the lateral collapse of Anak Krakatau volcano, Indonesia', Applied Sciences, vol. 10, no. 2, 536. https://doi.org/10.3390/app10020536

Carey, S, Sparks, RSJ, Tucker, ME, Robinson, L, Watt, S, Gee, M, Hastie, A, Barfod, DN, Stinton, A, Leng, A, Raineault, N & Ballard, RD 2020, 'The polygenetic Kahouanne Seamounts in the northern Lesser Antilles island arc: evidence for large-scale volcanic island subsidence', Marine Geology, vol. 419, 106046, pp. 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2019.106046

Cox, D, Watt, SFL, Jenner, FE, Hastie, AR & Hammond, SJ 2019, 'Chalcophile element processing beneath a continental arc stratovolcano', Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 522, pp. 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2019.06.017

Cassidy, M, Ebmeier, SK, Helo, C, Watt, S, Caudron, C, Odell, A, Spaans, K, Kristianto, P, Triastuty, H, Gunawan, H & Castro, JM 2019, 'Explosive eruptions with little warning: experimental petrology and volcano monitoring observations from the 2014 eruption of Kelud, Indonesia', Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, vol. 20. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018GC008161

Watt, SFL, Karstens, J, Micallef, A, Berndt, C, Urlaub, M, Ray, M, Desai, A, Sammartini, M, Klaucke, I, Böttner, C, Day, S, Downes, H, Kühn, M & Elger, J 2019, 'From catastrophic collapse to multi-phase deposition: flow transformation, seafloor interaction and triggered eruption following a volcanic-island landslide', Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 517, pp. 135-147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2019.04.024


Watt, SFL, Karstens, J & Berndt, C 2020, Volcanic-island lateral collapses and their submarine deposits. in M Roverato, A Dufresne & J Procter (eds), Volcanic Debris Avalanches: From Collapse to Hazard. 1 edn, Advances in Volcanology, Springer, pp. 255-279. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-57411-6_10

Review article

Romero, JE, Polacci, M, Watt, S, Kitamura, S, Tormey, D, Sielfeld, G, Arzilli, F, La Spina, G, Franco, L, Burton, M & Polanco, E 2021, 'Volcanic lateral collapse processes in mafic arc edifices: a review of their driving processes, types and consequences', Frontiers in Earth Science, vol. 9, 639825. https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2021.639825

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