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Slab-window and slab-tearing: integrated seismic and volcanological constraints on the mechanism inducing South-Italian volcanism (STEAMINg)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr L De Siena
    Dr M Hole
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

From the super-volcanic Campi Flegrei calderic centre to the effusive Mt. Etna, a line of volcanic centres scars the South-Italian peninsula and Tyrrhenian sea. The mechanisms inducing this line of fire are currently unknown. This project aims to obtain integrated geophysical and volcanological evidences to the hypothesis that slab-windowing (Hole 1991; Hole et al. 2015) and slab-tearing (Liu& Stegman 2012) are affecting either the Eurasian or the subducting African plates, creating all or part of these volcanoes. The experience and links with international institution of the supervisor team provide a suite of geophysical and volcanological techniques and observations apt to depict where and how molten materials rise to surface and connect these volcanic centres.

As recently as 28th December 2015, Etna began emitting ash from a cone high on its east flank. Etna is just one member of a chain of volcanic centres, including the super-volcanic Campi Flegrei caldera, which scars the South-Italian peninsula and Tyrrhenian sea. Whilst the historical record of volcanic activity in this chain is without parallel, the precise geological mechanisms that lead to the formation this line of fire are surprisingly poorly understood. One possible explanation for this volcanism requires a ‘window’ in the underlying subducted slab, which allows upwelling and decompression melting of the upper mantle, but at ambient mantle temperatures (Gazel et al. 2011; Hole 1991; Hole et al. 2015; Liu& Stegman 2012). This project aims to integrate geophysical and petrological data to test the applicability of such a model.

In this project, novel geophysical imaging techniques employing deep volcanic activity and heterogeneity (De Siena et al. 2014) will be paired with the study of the physics of magmatic products rising at the different volcanoes. At INGV (Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Italy) the candidate will be given access to facilities and knowledge in volcano-monitoring. The results of this project will provide fundamental insight into the way the most important volcanoes in continental Europe are formed as well as crucial data to forecasting seismo-volcanic events. This is one of the main focuses for the European Community, which has provided a large part of the Horizon 2020 budget to both prediction and resilience to natural hazards (

The candidate will acquire unique skills, becoming an expert in seismic imaging, rock physics characterization, and volcano-geodynamical modelling. Independently of the validity of the hypothesis he/she will be given the tools to become a leading expert in volcano research, pursuing a career in either academic or volcano-monitoring institutions across the world.

Essential Background: Equivalent of 2.1 Honours Degree in Geology, Geophysics, Physics or related disciplines.

Knowledge- Essential: programming in Matlab, Fortran, Python, or C. Desirable: seismiology; rock physics; experience in Photoshop.

Funding Notes

The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for Tuition fees, living expenses and maintenance. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting There is NO funding attached to this project. You can find details of living costs and the like by visiting


De Siena et al. 2014. Attenuation and scattering tomography of the deep plumbing system of Mount St. Helens. Journal of Geophysical Research,
119.11 (2014): 8223-8238.
Gazel, E. et al. 2011. Plume-subduction interaction in southern Central America: mantle upwelling and slab melting. Lithos, 121, 117-134
Hole et al. 1991. Relation between alkalic volcanism and slab-window formation. Geology.
Hole, M.J. 2015. The generation of continental flood basalts by decompression melting of internally heated mantle. Geology, 43, 311-314.
Liu & Stegman 2012. Origin of Columbia River flood basalt controlled by propagating rupture of the Farallon slab. Science

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Earth Science. Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for PhD in Geology, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. Please ensure that you quote the project title and supervisor on the application form.

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr L De Siena ([email protected]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ([email protected]).

How good is research at Aberdeen University in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

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