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

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

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.

Qualifications

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

Biography

2006-2010 DPhil, Oxford University Department of Earth Sciences

2010-2011 Postdoctoral Fellow in Geophysics, University of Southampton

2011-2014 NERC Postdoctoral Research Fellow (U. Southampton/U. Birmingham)

Awards

2015 Murchison Fund, The Geological Society of London

2014 EGU Arne Richter Award

Postgraduate supervision

Those interested in postgraduate research are encouraged to contact me via email to discuss potential projects and opportunities. Projects in topics covering volcanology and igneous petrology are also advertised on the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences web page.

Research

Research interests

  • 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

Current Projects

Eruption Records in the Mexico City region

This project draws on an International Continental Scientific Drilling Program sediment core, collected on the south side of Mexico City in 2016. The core spans 350,000 years, and as well as recording regional climatic changes, preserves a large number of explosive eruption deposits, thus providing important insights into the long-term behaviour of local volcanoes. A recently funded NSF/NERC project will investigate the palaeoenvironmental records in the core, with the volcanic record providing key chronological information for this study.

Volcano collapse processes and associated hazards

Volcanoes are inherently unstable structures, and prone to catastrophic landslides that can destroy a large proportion of the volcanic edifice. Ongoing research is investigating the mechanism of landslide emplacement, the impact of collapse on subsequent activity at the volcano, and the capacity of collapses to generate tsunamis in island settings. Current work is focusing on the collapse of Ritter Island, Papua New Guinea, in 1888, as well as a number of older collapses.

Explosive volcanic eruptions and tsunami generation

A recently funded NSF/NERC project will investigate the mechanisms of tsunami generation in large-scale explosive eruptions, using the Krakatau 1883 eruption as a key case study. The vast majority of fatalities from the 1883 eruption resulted from the tsunami produced in the final stages of the event. We will build on new geophysical data and field observations, as well as advanced tsunami modelling, to better understand how large explosive eruptions generate tsunamis.

Mantle volatiles: processes, reservoirs and fluxes

This 5-year NERC-funded project aims to provide a new process-based understanding of volatile element fluxes into the deep mantle at subduction zones and out of the mantle at mid ocean ridges and ocean island settings. At Birmingham we are working on the subduction-zone component of the project, with a focus on understanding spatial patterns in volatile, and particularly chalcophile element, cycling in the southern Chilean arc.

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

Publications

  • Micallef, A, S Watt, C Berndt, M Urlaub, S Brune, I Klaucke, C Boettner, J Karstens, J Elger, 2017. Developing a new benchmark to test coupled landslide-tsunami models at volcanic islands. EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 98, https://doi.org/lQ.l02Q/2017EO08274.T
  • Coussens, MF, M Cassidy, SFL Watt, M Jutzeler, PJ Talling, D Barfod, T Gernon, R Taylor, SJ Hatter, MR Palmer, 2017. Long-term changes in explosive and effusive behaviour at andesitic arc volcanoes: Chronostratigraphy of the Centre Hills Volcano, Montserrat. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 333-334, 15-35.
  • Jutzeler, M, M Manga, JDL White, PJ Talling, AA Proussevitch, SFL Watt, M Cassidy, RN Taylor, A Le Friant, O Ishizuka, 2017. Submarine deposits from pumiceous pyroclastic density currents traveling over water: An outstanding example from offshore Montserrat (IODP 340). GSA Bulletin 129, 392-414.
  • Coussens, MF, D Wall-Palmer, PJ Talling, SFL Watt et al., 2016. The relationship between eruptive activity, flank collapse, and sea level at volcanic islands: a long-term (>1 Ma) record offshore Montserrat, Lesser Antilles. Geophysics, Geochemistry, Geosystems 17, 2591-2611.
  • Alfano, F, C Bonadonna, SFL Watt, C Connor, A Volentik, DM Pyle, 2016. Reconstruction of total grain size distribution of the climactic phase of a long-lasting eruption: the example of the 2008-2013 Chaiten eruption. Bulletin of Volcanology 78, 46.
  • Coussens, MF, D Wall-Palmer, PJ Talling, SFL Watt et al., 2016. Synthesis: stratigraphy and age control for IODP Sites U1394, U1395, and U1396 offshore Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles. Proceedings of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program 340, doi:10.2204/iodp.proc.340.204.2016
  • Hornbach, MJ et al., 2015. Permeability and pressure measurements in Lesser Antilles submarine slides: evidence for pressure-driven slow-slip failure. Journal of Geophysical Research 120, 7986-8011.
  • Watt SFL, M Jutzeler, PJ Talling, SN Carey, RSJ Sparks, M Tucker, AJ Stinton, JK Fisher, D Wall-Palmer, V Hühnerbach, SG Moreton, 2015. New insights into landslide processes around volcanic islands from Remotely Operated Vehicle observations offshore Montserrat, Geophysics, Geochemistry, Geosystems 16, 2240-2261.
  • Cassidy, M, SFL Watt, PJ Talling, MR Edmonds, M Jutzeler et al., 2015. Rapid onset of mafic magmatism facilitated by volcanic edifice collapse. Geophysical Research Letters 42, 4778-4785.
  • Watt SFL, JS Gilbert, A Folch, JC Phillips, X-M Cai, 2015. An example of enhanced tephra fallout driven by topographically-induced atmospheric turbulence. Bulletin of Volcanology 77, 35.
  • Le Friant, A et al. 2015. Submarine record of volcanic island construction and collapse in the Lesser Antilles arc: first scientific drilling of submarine volcanic island landslides by IODP Expedition 340. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 16, 420–442.
  • Cassidy, M, M Edmonds, SFL Watt, MR Palmer, TM Gernon, 2015. Origin of basalts by hybridisation in andesite-dominated arcs. Journal of Petrology 56, 325–346.
  • Cassidy, M, SFL Watt, MR Palmer, J Trofimovs, W Symons, SE Maclachlan, AJ Stinton, 2014. Construction of volcanic records from marine sediment cores: a review and case study (Montserrat, West Indies). Earth-Science Reviews 138, 137–155.
  • Wall-Palmer, D, M Coussens, PJ Talling, M Jutzeler, M Cassidy, I Marchant, MR Palmer, SFL Watt et al., 2014. Late Pleistocene stratigraphy of IODP Site U1396 and compiled chronology offshore of south and south west Montserrat, Lesser Antilles. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 15, 3000–3020.
  • Watt, SFL, PJ Talling, JE Hunt, 2014. New insights into the emplacement dynamics of volcanic island landslides. Oceanography 27, 46–57.
  • Talling, PJ, M Clare, M Urlaub, E Pope, JE Hunt, SFL Watt, 2014. Large submarine landslides on continental slopes: Geohazards, methane release and climate change. Oceanography 27, 32–45.
  • Cassidy, M, J Trofimovs, SFL Watt, MR Palmer, RN Taylor, TM Gernon, PJ Talling, A Le Friant, 2014. Multi-stage collapse events in the South Soufrière Hills, Montserrat as recorded in marine sediment cores. Geological Society, London, Memoirs 39, 383–397.
  • Cassidy, M, J Trofimovs, SFL Watt, MR Palmer, RN Taylor, TM Gernon, PJ Talling, A Le Friant, 2013. Multi-stage collapse events in the South Soufrière Hills, Montserrat as recorded in marine sediment cores. Geological Society Memoir, The Eruption of Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat from 2000 to 2010, in press.
  • Watt, SFL, DM Pyle, TA Mather, JA Naranjo, 2013. Arc magma compositions controlled by linked thermal and chemical gradients above the subducting slab. Geophysical Research Letters 40, 2550–2556.
  • Watt, SFL, DM Pyle, TA Mather. The volcanic response to deglaciation: evidence from glaciated volcanic arcs and a reassessment of global eruption records, 2013. Earth-Science Reviews 122, 77–102.
  • Watt, SFL, DM Pyle, TA Mather, 2013. Evidence of mid- to late-Holocene explosive rhyolitic eruptions from Chaitén volcano, Chile. Andean Geology 40, 216–226.
  • Cassidy, M, J Trofimovs, MR Palmer, PJ Talling, SFL Watt, SG Moreton, RN Taylor, 2013. Timing and emplacement dynamics of newly recognised mass flow deposits at ~8-12 ka offshore Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat: how submarine stratigraphy can complement subaerial eruption histories. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 253, 1–14.
  • Crutchley, GJ, J Karstens, C Berndt, PJ Talling, SFL Watt, ME Vardy, V Hühnerbach, M Urlaub, S Sarkar, D Klaeschen, M Paulatto, A Le Friant, E Lebas, F Maeno, 2013. Insights into the emplacement dynamics of volcanic landslides from high-resolution 3D seismic data offshore Montserrat, Lesser Antilles. Marine Geology, 335, 1-15.
  • Karstens, J, GJ Crutchley, C Berndt, PJ Talling, SFL Watt, V Hühnerbach, A Le Friant, E Lebas, J Trofimovs, 2013. Emplacement of pyroclastic flow deposits offshore Montserrat from 3D seismic data. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 257, 1–11.
  • Trofimovs, J, PJ Talling, JK Fisher, RSJ Sparks, SFL Watt, MB Hart, C Smart, A Le Friant, M Cassidy, SG Moreton, MJ Leng, 2013. Timing, origin and emplacement dynamics of mass flows offshore of SE Montserrat in the last 110 ka: implications for landslide and tsunami hazards, eruption history, and volcanic island evolution. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 14, 385-406.
  • Watt, SFL, PJ Talling, ME Vardy, DM Masson, TJ Henstock, V Hühnerbach, TA Minsull, M Urlaub, E Lebas, A Le Friant, C Berndt, GJ Crutchley, J Karstens, 2012. Widespread and progressive seafloor-sediment failure following volcanic debris avalanche emplacement: landslide dynamics and timing offshore Montserrat, Lesser Antilles. Marine Geology, 323–325, 69–94.
  • Watt, SFL, PJ Talling, ME Vardy, V Heller, V Hühnerbach, M Urlaub, S Sarkar, DG Masson, TJ Henstock, TA Minshull, M Paulatto, A Le Friant, E Lebas, C Berndt, GJ Crutchley, J Karstens, AJ Stinton, F Maeno, 2012. Combinations of volcanic-flank and seafloor-sediment failure offshore Montserrat, and their implications for tsunami generation. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 319–320, 228–240.
  • Martin, RS, MLI Witt, GM Sawyer, HE Thomas, SFL Watt, E Bagnato, S Calabrese, A Aiuppa, P Delmelle, DM Pyle, TA Mather, 2012. Bioindication of volcanic mercury (Hg) deposition around Mt. Etna (Sicily). Chemical Geology 310–311, 12–22.
  • Watt, SFL, DM Pyle, TA Mather, 2011. Geology, petrology and geochemistry of the dome complex of Huequi volcano, southern Chile. Andean Geology 38, 335–348.
  • Watt, SFL, DM Pyle, JA Naranjo, G Rosqvist, M Mella, TA Mather, H Moreno, 2011. Holocene tephrochronology of the Hualaihue region (Andean southern volcanic zone, ~42° S), southern Chile. Quaternary International 246, 324–343.
  • Alfano, F, C Bonadonna, ACM Volentik, CB Connor, SFL Watt, DM Pyle, LJ Connor, 2011. Tephra stratigraphy and eruptive volume of the May, 2008, Chaitén eruption, Chile. Bulletin of Volcanology 73, 613–630.
  • Lebas, E, A Le Friant, G Boudon, SFL Watt, PJ Talling, N Feuillet, C Deplus, C Berndt, ME Vardy, 2011. Multiple widespread landslides during the long-term evolution of a volcanic island: insights from high-resolution seismic data, Montserrat, Lesser Antilles. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 12, Q05006.
  • Martin, RS, MLI Witt, DM Pyle, TA Mather, SFL Watt, E Bagnato, S Calabrese, 2011. Rapid oxidation of mercury (Hg) at volcanic vents: Insights from high temperature thermodynamic models of Mt Etna’s emissions. Chemical Geology 283, 279–286.
  • Watt, SFL, DM Pyle, TA Mather, 2009. The influence of Great Earthquakes on volcanic eruption rate along the Chilean subduction zone. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 277, 399–407.
  • Watt, SFL, DM Pyle, TA Mather, RS Martin, NE Matthews, 2009. Fallout and distribution of volcanic ash over Argentina following the May 2008 explosive eruption of Chaitén, Chile. Journal of Geophysical Research 114, B04207.
  • Watt, SFL, DM Pyle, JA Naranjo, TA Mather, 2009. Edifice destruction on strike-slip fault zones: Landslide and tsunami hazard at Yate volcano, Chile. Bulletin of Volcanology 71, 559–574.
  • Carn, SA, JS Pallister, L Lara, JW Ewert, S Watt, AJ Prata, RJ Thomas, G Villarosa, 2009. The unexpected awakening of Chaitén volcano, Chile. EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 90, 205–212.
  • Martin, RS, TA Mather, DM Pyle, SFL Watt, JA Day, SJ Collins, TE Wright, A Aiuppa, S Calabrese, 2009. Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) leaves as a bio-indicator of volcanic gas, aerosol and ash deposition onto the flanks of Mt Etna in 2005-2007. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 179, 107–119.
  • Martin, RS, SFL Watt, DM Pyle, TA Mather, NE Matthews, RB Georg, JA Day, T Fairhead, MLI Witt, BM Quayle, 2009. Environmental effects of ashfall in Argentina from the 2008 Chaitén volcanic eruption. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 184, 462–472.
  • Watt, SFL, TA Mather, DM Pyle, 2007. Vulcanian explosion cycles: patterns and predictability. Geology 35, 839–842.
  • Watt, SFL, DM Pyle, TA Mather, TA, JA Day, A Aiuppa, 2007. The use of tree-rings and foliage as an archive of volcanogenic cation deposition. Environmental Pollution 148, 48–61.

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