Dr Sebastian Watt DPhil

Dr Sebastian Watt

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Associate Professor of Earth Sciences
Head of Education (GEES)

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


Beresford-Browne, A, Jolley, D, Millett, J, Stevenson, C, Watt, S, Raine, R & Carter, E 2024, 'Depositional system and plant ecosystem responses to long-term low tempo volcanism, the Interbasaltic Formation, Antrim Lava Group', Geological Society, London, Special Publications, vol. 547. https://doi.org/10.1144/SP547-2023-75

Romero, JE, Polacci, M, Arzilli, F, Schipper, CI, La Spina, G, Burton, M, Parada, MA, Norambuena, J, Guevara, A, Watt, S, Moreno, H, Franco, L & Fellowes, J 2023, 'Long-term volcano evolution controlled by lateral collapse at Antuco volcano, southern Andes, Chile', Communications Earth and Environment, vol. 4, no. 1, 292. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-023-00931-1

Satow, C, Watt, S, Cassidy, M, Pyle, D & Deng, YN 2023, 'The Contributions of Marine Sediment Cores to Volcanic Hazard Assessments: Present Examples and Future Perspectives', Geosciences, vol. 13, no. 4, 124. https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences13040124

Watt, S, Cassidy, M, Cutler, K, Madden-nadeau, A, Engwell, SL, Abdurrachman, M, Nurshal, MEM, Tappin, DR, Carey, S, Novellino, A, Hayer, C, Hunt, JE, Day, S, Grilli, ST, Kurniawan, IA & Kartadinata, N 2022, 'Downward-propagating eruption following vent unloading implies no direct magmatic trigger for the 2018 lateral collapse of Anak Krakatau', Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 578, 117332. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2021.117332

Aubry, T, Farquharson, J, Rowell, C, Watt, S, Pinel, V, Beckett, F, Fasullo, J, Hopcroft, P, Pyle, D, Schmidt, A & Staunton Sykes, J 2022, 'Impact of climate change on volcanic processes: current understanding and future challenges', Bulletin of Volcanology, vol. 84, no. 6, 58, pp. 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00445-022-01562-8

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2021.107413

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, vol. 48, no. 10, pp. 957-960. 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

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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