Leading volcano expert gives insightful 42 talk into hot topic

Professor Clive Oppenheimer provided a fascinating 42 lecture for Perse students on his world-leading research into volcanoes.

As an acclaimed geoscientist, Dr Oppenheimer has collaborated on three documentaries on the subject with award-winning film director Werner Herzog and recently published his latest book Mountains of Fire: The Secret Lives of Volcanoes.

Dr Oppenheimer, who is also Professor of Volcanology at Cambridge University, shared how some of those secrets had been uncovered during his insightful talk entitled ‘Listening to Volcanoes’.

He explained that his work involves investigating the causes involved in triggering eruptions and the impacts they can have not just in the immediate community and to aviation, but more widely in terms of climate, environment and even history.

A whistle-stop tour of some of the volcanoes he has studied saw Dr Oppenheimer take the audience to the Soufriere Hills in Montserrat, where he made gas measurements as part of the research that followed devastating eruptions in the 1990s swamped the country’s then capital city Plymouth and turned the southern half of the island into an exclusion zone.

The trip took a chillier turn as Dr Oppenheimer travelled to Antarctica and Mount Erebus, a perpetually active volcano where he spent 13 seasons carrying out fieldwork, including using a radar system to gain a better understanding of the rhythms of the lava lake across its vast crater.

As an aside, Dr Oppenheimer outlined how during his studies he discovered two previously lost campsites used by a group of explorers from Captain Scott’s 1912 expedition, which have now been recognised as protected sites under the Antarctic Treaty System.

He rounded off the fascinating 42 journey with an exploration of Mount Paektu on the border of North Korea and China.

Dr Oppenheimer was one of a small group of researchers invited to help local scientists investigate the site. Using radiocarbon measurements from fossilised trees nearby, they were able to determine that the massive eruption that killed them occurred around the year 946.

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