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Dr Mike Widdowson

Profile summary

  • Visiting Informal Academic
  • Visiting Fellow
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
  • School of Environment, Earth & Ecosystem Sciences
  • mike.widdowson

Professional biography

Lecturer in Volcanology

 

Over 25 years, my research has focused upon the chemostratigraphy and geochronology of flood basalt volcanism and its environmental effects [1-4]. I am also a specialist in tropical weathering processes [5,6]. Over two decades I have become an international authority on the Deccan Traps, and have been instrumental in developing and applying the chemostratigraphic techniques that have elucidated the volcanic and tectonic evolution of the province [7-12]. I have considerable fieldwork experience on LIP volcanology and/or Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary sections in India, Europe, USA, China, New Zealand and Australia; I was selected as lead volcanologist for IODP Leg 324 Shatsky Rise, NW Pacific Ocean (Sept. – Nov. 2009).

I employ an innovative, cross-disciplinary approach to my research, and have a very wide range of analytical and field experience. I have published more than 30 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters in the period 2006 - 12, and have successfully supervised 6 PhD students (volcanology, geochemistry, geochronology, paleomagnetism, thermochronology, palynology, and organic geochemistry) since 1998.

Relevant past NERC-funded research includes uplift and denudation thermochronology studies in India (GR9/963; NER/S/R/2003/12016); geochronology of the Deccan Traps (GR3/11474); environmental impact of the Columbia River volcanism (NER/A/S/2003/00444), and recent funding to participate on IODP Leg 324- Plume and Plate Models of Ocean Plateau Formation at Shatsky Rise(NE/H010270/1).

I have given numerous media interviews (TV and radio) on volcanism-related climate change, and the KTB extinction event.

 

TV Documentary Work

In March 2010, I was scientific consultant, and was filmed for an episode of the Canadian TV series ‘The Odyssey of the Continents’ on location in India, and in the OU’s world-class rock-dating laboratories.

www.tvfrance-intl.com/tl_files/...la...continents/flyer_42677.pdf

In October 2012, I was invited out to India to film an episode of a major new BBC series called 'The Story of the Continents' which aired on domestic UK TV in March-April 2013. The Episode is part of a five part BBC series which will be introduced by Prof. Iain Stewart. Iain has done 'the talk to camera narrative' based on my Deccan research. At the same time, I was filmed 'interview style', and this footage has been used for a parallel series which went out to BBC worldwide in summer 2013 (BBC Worldwide: Rise of the Continents; Episode 4 - 'Eurasia').

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01993gc

http://www8.open.ac.uk/science/main/about-the-faculty/news/ou-volcanologist-films-india-the-bbc

Publications listed above

1:Self, S., Widdowson, M., & Thordarson, T. & Jay, A.E. (2006). Volatile fluxes during flood basalt eruptions and potential effects on the global environment: a Deccan perspective. Earth and Planetary Science Letters.248, 517 - 531.

2: Jerram, D.A., & Widdowson, M. (2005). The anatomy of Continental Flood Basalt Provinces: geological constraints on the processes and products of flood volcanism. Lithos, 79, 385 - 405.

3: Jolley, D.W., & Widdowson, M. (2005). Did Palaeogene rift-related eruptions drive early Eocene climate cooling? Lithos, 79, 355 - 366.

4: Wignall, P.B., Sun, Y., Bond, D.P.G., Izon, G., Newton, R.J., Védrine, S., Widdowson, M., Ali, J.R., Lai, X., Jiang, H., Cope, H. & Bottrell,S.H. (2009) Volcanism, Mass Extinction, and Carbon Isotope Fluctuations in the Middle Permian of China. Science, 324, 1179 – 1182.

5: Widdowson, M. (2007). Laterite and Ferricrete. In: Nash, D.J. & McLaren, S.J. (Eds). Geochemical Sediments and Landscapes, Blackwell, 488pp.

6: Kisakurek, B., Widdowson, M. & James, R.H. (2004). Behaviour of Li isotopes during continental weathering: the Bidar laterite profile, India. Chemical Geology, 212, 27 - 44.

7: Jay, A.E. & Widdowson, M. (2008). Stratigraphy, structure and volcanology of the SE Deccan continental flood basalt province: implications for eruptive extent and volumes. Journal of the Geological Society of London, 165, 177-188.

8: Widdowson, M., Pringle, M.S. & Fernandez, O.A. (2000). A post K/T boundary age for Deccan-type dyke feeder dykes, Goa, India.  Journal of Petrology, 41(7), 1177-1194.

9: Widdowson, M. & Cox, K.G. (1996).  Uplift and erosional history of the Deccan traps, India: Evidence from laterites and drainage patterns of the Western Ghats and Konkan Coast.  Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 137, 57-69.

10: Mitchell, C. & Widdowson, M. (1991). A Geological Map of the Southern Deccan Traps, India. Journal of the Geological Society of London 148, 495-505.

11: Keller, G., Adatte, T., Bajpai, S., Mohabey, D.M., Widdowson, M., Khosla, A., Sharma, R., Khosla, S.C., Gertsch, B., Fleitmann, D., & Sahni, A. (2009) K-Ttransition in Deccan Traps of central India marks major marine Seaway across India. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 282, 10–23.

12: Jay, A.E., Mac Niocaill, C., Widdowson, M., Self, S., &Turner, W. (2009). New palaeomagnetic data from the Mahabaleshwar Plateau, Deccan Flood Basalt Province, India: implications for the volcanostratigraphic architecture of continental flood basalt provinces. Journal of the Geological Society of London, 166, 13-24.

Research interests

Current ResearchThemes:

 
Flood basalt volcanism, and its environmental effects

Many flood basalt events are temporally associated with climate-change events, and mass extinctions - is there a link? We can discover the answer through careful study of the lavas successions, the sediments and fossils trapped between them, and the chemistry of both the basalts and the deposits associated with them.

 
Tropical weathering geochemistry

Rocks such as basalt .form from high temperature magmas and contain minerals that are stable at pressures and temperatures far in excess of those at the surface. As a result, they are very susceptible to breakdown and alteration when exposed at the surface. No where is this alteration more rapid than in the humid tropics where warm termperatures and heavy rains create a reactive cocktail of percolating groundwaters.

Shatsky Rise - Revealing the world's largest volcano - 

A team of geoscientists including Dr Mike Widdowson, Lecturer in Volcanology at The Open University, may have discovered the largest volcano on Earth, the size of the British Isles, hidden in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

The volcano is called Tamu Massif and measures 625 km at its base.  It is a part of a large underwater plateau a thousand miles east of Japan. It has been now identified as a landform created by a massive lava flow from a single centre making it an individual mountain, however without a spectacular peak.

Geologists have known of the existence of the Tamu Massif since the 1920s, when it was described as one of three major peaks in an even larger feature called the Shatsky Rise plateau. Until now, they had assumed that the Massif owed its size to the combined output of multiple volcanoes.

Now, by analysing new seismic data from the area and rock cores drilled from the Tamu Massif, evidence now indicates that it is in fact a single, enormous volcano. The data reveals the internal structure of the submerged mountain, going several kilometres deep. It appears to show that all the lava that constitutes the Tamu Massif originated from one summit.

The findings were published in an article in Nature Geoscience and covered in the weekly general version of Nature, New Scientist, and many world media outlets. The discovery was made during two expeditions to the Pacific above the Shatsky Rise, an area of the elevated ocean floor.  Experiments including sending seismic waves into the rock mass indicated that 140 million years ago magma flowed from one centre, rather than from several separate openings as previously thought.

Tamu Massif is 4 kilometres tall at its highest point, making it smaller than Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii, the biggest mountain on the planet, which rises 9 kilometres from the seabed, but has a significantly smaller base. At 310,000 sq km Tamu Massif’s base is not only by far the largest on Earth, but also slightly bigger than that of Olympus Mons on Mars, making the recent discovery the broadest mountain in the Solar System.

http://www.open.ac.uk/platform/news-and-features/ou-researcher-in-team-which-discovers-the-largest-volcano-earth

http://www.nature.com/news/underwater-volcano-is-earth-s-biggest-1.13680

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24164-worlds-biggest-volcano-was-born-in-the-dinosaur-age.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24007339

Teaching interests

To be completed:

Teaching at the Open University

Past Courses

S260

S269

Current Courses

S808

U316

U116

S283

You Tube Video: Intoduction to S283 http://youtu.be/exSE6M9-xyg

External Teaching and Lectures

Science Oxford: 31 October 2008

'Continental flood basalt’ eruptions are examples of volcanic ‘super-eruptions’. They can smother hundreds of thousands of square miles in red-hot molten rock, create stacks of lava over a mile thick and spew out mind-boggling quantities of toxic gas. Dr Mike Widdowson investigates the geological record for past eruptions, and speculates upon what might happen if such super-eruptions were to occur today – after all, it’s only a matter of time before the next one blow!'

Link to on-line lecture:

http://www.pulse-project.org/node/105

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research (CEPSAR)CentreFaculty of Science

Publications

The Giant Lavas of Kalkarindji: rubbly pāhoehoe lava in an ancient continental flood basalt province (2016-01)
Marshall, Peter E.; Widdowson, Mike and Murphy, David T.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 441(1) (pp. 22-37)
Quantifying chemical weathering intensity and trace element release from two contrasting basalt profiles, Deccan Traps, India (2014-01-10)
Babechuk, M. G.; Widdowson, M. and Kamber, B. S.
Chemical Geology, 363 (pp. 56-75)
A common parentage for Deccan Continental Flood Basalt and Central Indian Ocean Ridge Basalt? A Geochemical and isotopic approach (2014)
Ray, D.; Misra, S.; Widdowson, M. and Langmuir , C. H.
Journal of Asian Earth Sciences ((In Press))
An immense shield volcano within the Shatsky Rise oceanic plateau, northwest Pacific Ocean (2013-09)
Sager, William W.; Zhang, Jinchang; Korenaga, Jun; Sano, Takashi; Koppers, Anthony A. P.; Widdowson, Mike and Mahoney, John J.
Nature Geoscience, 6 (pp. 976-981)
Variety and origin of magmas on Shatsky Rise, northwest Pacific Ocean (2012-08-18)
Sano, Takashi ; Shimizu, Kenji ; Ishikawa, Akira ; Senda, Ryoko ; Qing Chang, Qing ; Kimura, Jun-Ichi ; Widdowson, Mike and Sager, William W.
Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 13(8) (Q08010)
Climate model predictions for the latest Cretaceous: an evaluation using climatically sensitive sediments as proxy indicators (2012-01-15)
Craggs, Helen; Valdes, Paul J. and Widdowson, Mike
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 315 (pp. 12-23)
Tectonic setting and timing of the final Deccan flood basalt eruptions (2010-09-01)
Hooper, Peter; Widdowson, Mike and Kelley, Simon
Geology, 38(9) (pp. 839-842)
Dating the onset and nature of the Middle Permian Emeishan large igneous province eruptions in SW China using conodont biostratigraphy and its bearing on mantle plume uplift models (2010-09)
Sun, Yadong; Lai, Xulong; Wignall, Paul B.; Widdowson, Mike; Ali, Jason R.; Jiang, Haishui; Wang, Wei; Yan, Chunbo; Bond, David P.G. and Védrine, Stéphanie
Lithos, 119(1-2) (pp. 20-33)
Tectonic history and occurrence of 2.4 Ga mafic dyke swarms adjacent to Godavari Basin, Karimnagar, India (2010-06-10)
Mallikharjuna Rao, J.; Poornachandra Rao, G. V. S. ; Widdowson, M.; Yellappa, T. and Kelley, S.P.
Current Science (Online), 98(11) (pp. 1472-1478)
New 40Ar/39Ar dating of the Grande Ronde lavas, Columbia River Basalts, USA: Implications for duration of flood basalt eruption episodes (2010)
Barry, T. L.; Self, S.; Kelley, S. P.; Reidel, S.; Hooper, P. and Widdowson, M.
Lithos, 118(3-4) (pp. 213-222)
K–T transition in Deccan Traps of central India marks major marine Seaway across India (2009-05-30)
Keller, G.; Adatte, T.; Bajpai, S.; Mohabey, D. M.; Widdowson, M.; Khosla, A.; Sharma, R; Khosla, S. C.; Gertsch, B.; Fleitmann, D. and Sahni, A.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 282(1-4) (pp. 10-23)
Volcanism, mass extinction, and carbon isotope fluctuations in the Middle Permian of China (2009)
Wignall, Paul B.; Sun, Yadong; Bond, David P. G.; Izon, Gareth; Newton, Robert J.; Védrine, Stéphanie; Widdowson, Mike; Ali, Jason R.; Lai, Xulong; Jiang, Haishui; Cope, Helen and Bottrell, Simon H.
Science, 324(5931) (pp. 1179-1182)
New palaeomagnetic data from the Mahabaleshwar Plateau, Deccan Flood Basalt Province, India: implications for the volcanostratigraphic architecture of continental flood basalt provinces (2009)
Jay, Anne E.; Niocaill, Conall Mac; Widdowson, Mike; Self, Stephen and Turner, William
Journal of the Geological Society, 166(1) (pp. 13-24)
Sedimentation record in the Konkan–Kerala Basin: implications for the evolution of the Western Ghats and the Western Indian passive margin (2008-12-07)
Campanile, D.; Nambiar, C. G.; Bishop, P.; Widdowson, M. and Brown, R.
Basin Research, 20(1) (pp. 3-22)
Correlation of the Deccan and Rajahmundry Trap lavas: Are these the longest and largest lava flows on Earth? (2008-05)
Self, S.; Jay, A. E.; Widdowson, M. and Keszthelyi, L. P.
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 172(1-2) (pp. 3-19)
Sulfur and chlorine in late cretaceous deccan magmas and eruptive gas release (2008-03)
Self, Stephen; Blake, Stephen; Sharma, Kirti; Widdowson, Mike and Sephton, Sarah
Science, 319(5870) (pp. 1654-1657)
Stratigraphy, structure and volcanology of the SE Deccan continental flood basalt province: implications for eruptive extent and volumes (2008)
Jay, A.E. and Widdowson, M.
Journal of the Geological Society, 165(1) (pp. 177-188)
Rhenium and osmium isotope and elemental behaviour accompanying laterite formation in the Deccan region of India (2007-09)
Wimpenny, J.; Gannoun, A.; Burton, K. W.; Widdowson, M.; James, R. H. and Gislason, S. R.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 261(1-2) (pp. 239-258)
Regional uplift associated with continental large igneous provinces: The roles of mantle plumes and the lithosphere (2007-07)
Saunders, A. D.; Jones, S. M.; Morgan, L. A.; Pierce, K. L.; Widdowson, M. and Xu, Y. G.
Chemical Geology, 241(3-4) (pp. 282-318)
A petrogenetic model of basalts from the Northern Central Indian Ridge: 3-11° S (2007)
Ray, Dwijesh; Iyer, Sridhar D.; Banerjee, Ranadip; Misra, Saumitra and Widdowson, Mike
Acta Geologica Sinica, 81(1) (pp. 99-112)
Volatile fluxes during flood basalt eruptions and potential effects on the global environment: A Deccan perspective (2006-08-15)
Self, Stephen; Widdowson, Mike; Thordarson, Thorvaldur and Jay, Anne. E.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 248(1-2) (pp. 518-532)
Gas fluxes from flood basalt eruptions (2005-12)
Self, Stephen; Thordarson, Thorvaldur and Widdowson, Mike
Elements, 1(5) (pp. 283-287)
Evolution of Proterozoic mafic dyke swarms of the Bundelkhand Granite Massif, Central India (2005-02-10)
Mallikharjuna Rao, J.; Poornachandra Rao, G.V.S.; Widdowson, M. and Kelley, S.P.
Current Science, 88(3) (pp. 502-506)
Coastal ecosystem responses to late stage Deccan Trap volcanism: The post K-T boundary (Danian) palynofacies of Mumbai (Bombay), west India (2005-02-01)
Cripps, J. A.; Widdowson, M.; Spicer, R. A. and Jolley, D. W.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 216(3-4) (pp. 303-332)
Did Paleogene North Atlantic rift-related eruptions drive early Eocene climate cooling? (2005-02)
Jolley, David W. and Widdowson, Mike
Lithos, 79(3-4) (pp. 355-366)
The anatomy of Continental Flood Basalt Provinces: geological constraints on the processes and products of flood volcanism (2005-02)
Jerram, Dougal A. and Widdowson, Mike
Lithos, 79(3-4) (pp. 385-405)
Behaviour of Li isotopes during continental weathering: the Bidar laterite profile, India (2004-11-26)
Kisakurek, Basak; Widdowson, Mike and James, Rachael H.
Chemical Geology, 212(1-2) (pp. 27-44)
Denudation history of the continental margin of western peninsular India since the early Mesozoic - reconciling apatite fission track data with geomorphology (2003-10-15)
Gunnell, Y.; Gallagher, K.; Carter, A.; Widdowson, M. and Hurford, A.J.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 215(1-2) (pp. 187-201)
Constant elevation of southern Tibet over the past 15 million years (2003-02-06)
Spicer, Robert A.; Harris, Nigel B.W.; Widdowson, Mike; Herman, Alexei B.; Guo, Shuangxing; Valdes, Paul J.; Wolfe, Jack A. and Kelley, Simon P.
Nature, 421(6923) (pp. 622-624)
Indian laterites, and lateritious residues of southern Germany: a petrographic, mineralogical, and geochemical comparison (2001)
Borger, H. and Widdowson, M.
Zeitschrift fur Geomorphologie, 45(2) (pp. 177-200)
A post K–T boundary (Early Palaeocene) age for Deccan-type feeder dykes, Goa, India (2000)
Widdowson, M.; Pringle, M. S and Fernandez, O. A.
Journal of Petrology, 41(7) (pp. 1177-1194)
Tertiary palaeosurfaces of the SW Deccan, Western India: implications for passive margin uplift (1997)
Widdowson, M.
Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 120 (pp. 221-248)
The geochemistry of Indian bole horizons: palaeoenvironmental implications of Deccan intravolcanic palaeosurfaces (1997)
Widdowson, M.; Walsh, J. N and Subbarao, K. V.
Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 120 (pp. 269-281)
A geological map of the southern Deccan Traps, India and its structural implications (1991-06)
Mitchell, C. and Widdowson, M.
Journal of the Geological Society, 148(3) (pp. 495-505)
The early Danian hyperthermal event at Boltysh (Ukraine): relation to Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary events (2014)
Gilmour, Iain; Jolley, David; Kemp, David; Kelley, Simon; Gilmour, Mabs; Daly, Rob and Widdowson, Mike
In: Keller, Gerta and Kerr, Andrew C. eds. Volcanism, Impacts, and Mass Extinctions: Causes and Effects. Geological Society of America Special Papers (505) (pp. 133-146)
ISBN : 978-0-8137-2505-5 | Publisher : Geological Society of America | Published : Boulder, CO
Massive basalt flows on the southern flank of Tamu Massif, Shatsky Rise: a reappraisal of ODP Site 1213 basement units (2010)
Koppers, A. A. P. ; Sano, T.; Natland, J. H.; Widdowson, M.; Almeev, R.; Greene, A. R.; Murphy, D. T.; Delacour, A.; Miyoshi, M.; Shimizu, K.; Li, S.; Hirano, N. and Geldmacher, J.
In: Sager, W. W.; Sano, T. and Geldmacher, J. eds. Proceedings of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (pp. 1-20)
Publisher : Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International, Inc. | Published : Tokyo
Evolution of Laterite in Goa (2009-12)
Widdowson, Mike
In: Mascarenhas, Antonio and Kalavampara, Glenn eds. Natural Resources of Goa: A Geological Perspective (pp. 35-68)
ISBN : ISBN 978-81-908737-0-3 | Publisher : Geological Society of Goa | Published : India
Petrogenesis, Geochronology and Crustal Evolution of the Canacona Region of Southern Goa (2009-12)
Fernandes, Orlando A. and Widdowson, Mike
In: Mascarenhas, Antonio and Kalavampara, Glenn eds. Natural Resources of Goa: A Geological Perspective (pp. 69-95)
ISBN : ISBN 978-81-908737-0-3 | Publisher : Geological Society of Goa | Published : India
Laterite (2009)
Widdowson, Mike
In: Gornitz, Vivien ed. Encyclopedia of Paleoclimatology and Ancient Environments. Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series (pp. 514-517)
ISBN : 978-1-4020-4411-3 | Publisher : Springer | Published : Dordrecht, Netherlands
Laterite and Ferricrete (2007-12)
Widdowson, Mike
In: Nash, David J. and McLaren, Sue J. eds. Geochemical Sediments and Landscapes (pp. 46-94)
ISBN : 9781405125192 | Publisher : Wiley-Blackwell | Published : Oxford, UK
Discussion: Sheth, H.C. Plume-related regional pre-volcanic uplift in the Deccan Traps: Absence of evidence, evidence of absence (2007)
Widdowson, Mike
In: Foulger, G. R. and Jurdy, D. M. eds. Plates, Plumes, and Planetary Processes. Special Paper (430) (pp. 808-809)
ISBN : 978-0-8137-2430-0 | Publisher : Geological Society of America
Discussion: Sheth, H.C. Plume-related regional pre-volcanic uplift in the Deccan Traps: Absence of evidence, evidence of absence (2007)
Widdowson, Mike
In: Foulger, G. R. and Jurdy, D. M. eds. Plates, Plumes, and Planetary Processes. Special Paper (430) (pp. 805-806)
ISBN : 978-0-8137-2430-0 | Publisher : The Geological Society of America | Published : Boulder, Colorado, USA
Ferricrete (2003)
Widdowson, M.
In: Goudie, A. S. ed. Encyclopedia of Geomorphology (pp. 365-367)
ISBN : 978-0-415-27298-8 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London
Palaeosurfaces: Recognition, Reconstruction and Palaeoenvironmental Interpretation (1997-01-30)
Widdowson, M. ed.
Special Publication
ISBN : 978-1-897799-57-4 | Publisher : Geological Society of London | Published : London
Carbon isotope stratigraphy and palynology of an eastern Tethyan Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary section from Sumbar, Turkmenistan (2012-04)
Gilmour, I.; Pearce, C. A.; Jolley, D.; Sephton, M. A.; Widdowson, M. and Gilmour, M. A.
In : EGU General Assembly 2012 (22-27 April 2012, Vienna)
Shatsky Rise Formation. Expedition 324 of the Riserless Drilling Platform, Yokohama, Japan, to Townsville, Australia. Sites U1346–U1350, 4 September – 3 November 2009 (2009)
Sager, W. W.; Sano, T.; Geldmacher, J.; Widdowson, M. and Expedition 324 Scientists, The
In : Proceedings of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (4 September–3 November 2009)
Expedition 324: the shatsky rise – testing the plume head hypothesis (4th September–4th November 2009) (2010-08)
Prytulak, Julie; Widdowson, Mike and Littler, Kate
UK-IODP, UK newsletter number 35, pages 38-45

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