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Research interests

My research interests lie in using seismology to image the Earth from global scales to individual volcanoes. I have a particular focus on developing new techniques to image melt in the crust and mantle beneath volcanic settings and understanding the implications this has for the migration of melt from depth to eruption at the surface.

Current projects

The Mt. Paektu Geoscientific Project

  • This intraplate volcano is responsible for one of the largest eruptions in the last two thousand years, yet its location on the China-North Korea border has hampered study meaning even its underlying mechanism is unknown. Recently it underwent a period of unrest (2002-2006), which has focussed attention on the volcano. In this project, the first ever collaboration between western and North Korean Earth scientists, we aim to characterize the eruption history and image the internal structure of the volcano.

Mechanisms and implications of the 2011 eruption of Nabro Volcano, Eritrea

  • Nabro volcano unexpectedly erupted in June 2011 spewing large amounts of ash into the air and culminating in a 15km long lava flow. Together with colleagues in Eritrea and UK, we analysed regional data to understand what happened during the eruption (Goitom et al., 2015) and deployed 8 seismic stations on the volcano to understand the subsequent response of the caldera (Hamlyn et al., 2014). Together with PhD student Berhe Goitom we are also characterising the volcanic and seismic hazard of Eritrea

Imaging the African Superplume

  • Along with PhD student Chiara Civiero I have compiled all regional seismic data across East-Africa to allow us to image the mantle in high resolution (50-100km) from the surface to lower mantle depths. Using tomography and receiver functions (collaborator; Dave Thompson, Aberdeen) we show evidence for small upwellings through the transition zone. We interpret these new images using thermodynamic data (Collaborator; Saskia Goes, Imperial) and found: (1) multiple upwellings beneath East-Africa (Civiero et al., 2015), and (2) evidence of a hydrous mantle upwellings, suggesting composition as well as thermal buoyancy may drive upwelling (Thompson et al., 2015).

James Hammond  with Erte Ale Volcano in Ethiopia in background