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