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Dr Stephen Blake

Profile summary

Professional biography

I have a BSc in Geology from the University of St Andrews, where I also studied some applied maths and found inspiration in the realisation that active volcanoes give information on geological processes that is impossible to gather from the cold geological record, and that mathematics was a tool for helping to understand those processes. I subsequently obtained a PhD in physical volcanology at the University of Lancaster, supervised by Lionel Wilson and Harry Pinkerton. This was followed by a spell as a post-doc in Stewart Turner’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Group at the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Science and then a post-doc at University of Auckland, New Zealand.

At the Open University I enjoy collaborations with geochemists and environmental scientists and have so far supervised 21 PhD students. My current research interests are broad and include modelling sub-volcanic plumbing systems to understand the triggering and longevity of eruptions, forecasting the start and end of eruptions, studying the sulphur budgets and environmental impacts of volcanism, thermal remote sensing of volcanic activity, emplacement of lava flows.  See my publications page for details and more examples of my research in physical volcanology. My H-index is 31.

In 2011 I received the Annual Award of the Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group of the London Geological Society.

I currently serve on the Review Editorial Board for the Volcanology section of Frontiers in Earth Science.

I am a Fellow of the Geological Society of London, and a member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI). I am President of the Open University Geological Society.

Research interests

My research is focussed on solving problems relating to the transport, evolution and eruption of magmas, and on understanding the environmental impacts of volcanism. This multi-disciplinary research currently involves collaborations with field volcanologists, igneous geochemists, geochronologists, biogeochemists, ecologists and statisticians.

A statistical approach to eruption data and theoretical fluid dynamic modelling of the discharge of magma from reservoirs are being used to understand the controls on eruption durations and develop ways of forecasting eruption duration.  This complements my recent work on forecasting explosive eruptions using thermal remote sensing data (with former PhD student and Branco Weiss Fellow Dr Saskia van Manen) and current work on the eruption frequency of basaltic volcanic systems across the full spectrum of output rates from monogenetic fields to flood basalt provinces. Theoretical modelling of pressure evolution and magma flow rates in a sub-volcanic system comprising two linked magma chambers and a conduit to the surface allow a wide range of scenarios to be explored and provides insights on pre-eruptive inflation and sy-eruptive patterns in discharge rate and eruption longevity to be modelled.

Flood basalt vent and conduit systems are studied in a field-based project with Dr Richy Brown (Durham) and Steve Self (Visiting Professor) and is aimed at using field evidence to identify the eruption styles during flood basalt eruptions, concentrating on the Roza eruption of the Columbia River Basalt Group. Geochemical work on CRBG and Deccan lavas is addressing geochemical diversity within lava flows and between stratigraphic traverses to reconstruct flow field architecture and constarin re-surfacing rates.

The environmental aspects of basaltic volcanism are being examined through glass inclusion studies of sulphur release, and collaborations with colleagues and PhD students on the impacts of volcanic S deposition on ecosystems.

Teaching interests

I have written distance learning materials (book chapters, interactive DVD, video, online interactive learning material, practical and assessment materials) in igneous processes, volcanology, and general Earth Science for many past and current Open University modules at Levels 1, 2 and 3. Substantial contributions are found in the following current modules: S104 (Exploring Science) and S209 (Earth Science).

I chaired the team producing the new 'on-screen' Level 2 module S209 "Earth Science" which started its first presentation in October 2014.

Research groups

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


SO2 emissions from the Timanfaya eruption (1730–36 CE), Lanzarote, Canary Islands (2024-01)
Sharma, Kirti; Blake, Stephen and Self, Stephen
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 445, Article 107984

Spaceborne EO and a Combination of Inverse and Forward Modelling for Monitoring Lava Flow Advance (2019-12)
Rogic, Nikola; Cappello, Annalisa; Ganci, Gaetana; Maturilli, Alessandro; Rymer, Hazel; Blake, Stephen and Ferrucci, Fabrizio
Remote Sensing, 11, Article 3032(24)

Structures controlling volcanic activity within Masaya caldera, Nicaragua (2019-04-19)
Caravantes González, Guillermo; Rymer, Hazel; Zurek, Jeffrey; Ebmeier, Susanna K.; Blake, Stephen and Williams-Jones, Glyn
Volcanica, 2(1) (pp. 25-44)

Forecasting deflation, intrusion and eruption at inflating volcanoes (2018-01-01)
Blake, Stephen and Cortés, Joaquín A.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 481 (pp. 246-254)

Disruption of tephra fall deposits caused by lava flows during basaltic eruptions (2015-10)
Brown, R. J.; Thordarson, T.; Self, S. and Blake, S.
Bulletin of Volcanology, 77, Article 90

Entablature: fracture types and mechanisms (2014-04)
Forbes, A. E. S.; Blake, S. and Tuffen, H.
Bulletin of Volcanology, 76, Article 820(5)

Forecasting the duration of volcanic eruptions: an empirical probabilistic model (2014-01)
Gunn, L. S.; Blake, S.; Jones, M. C. and Rymer, H.
Bulletin of Volcanology, 76, Article 780(1)

Pyroclastic edifices record vigorous lava fountains during the emplacement of a flood basalt flow field, Roza Member, Columbia River Basalt Province, USA (2014)
Brown, R. J.; Blake, S.; Thordarson, T. and Self, S.
Geological Society of America Bulletin, 126(7-8) (pp. 875-891)

Reduction of the temperature sensitivity of minerotrophic fen methane emissions by simulated glacial atmospheric carbon dioxide starvation (2013-04-10)
Boardman, Carl P.; Gauci, Vincent; Fox, Andrew; Blake, Stephen and Beerling, David J.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 118(2) (pp. 462-470)

Forecasting large explosions at Bezymianny Volcano using thermal satellite data (2013)
van Manen, S. M.; Blake, S.; Dehn, J. and Valcic, L.
Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 380 (pp. 187-201)

Pseudopillow fracture systems in lavas: insights into cooling mechanisms and environments from lava flow fractures (2012-11-01)
Forbes, Anne; Blake, S.; McGarvie, D. W. and Tuffen, H.
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 245-6 (pp. 68-80)

Satellite thermal infrared data of Shiveluch, Kliuchevskoi and Karymsky, 1993-2008: effusion, explosions and the potential to forecast ash plumes (2012-08)
van Manen, Saskia M.; Blake, S. and Dehn, J.
Bulletin of Volcanology, 74(6) (pp. 1313-1335)

Contrasting wetland CH4 emission responses to simulated glacial atmospheric CO2 in temperate bogs and fens (2011-12)
Boardman, Carl P.; Gauci, Vincent; Watson, Jonathan S.; Blake, Stephen and Beerling, David J.
New Phytologist, 192(4) (pp. 898-911)

Constraints on the rates of degassing and convection in basaltic open-vent volcanoes (2011-11-09)
Palma, José L.; Blake, Stephen and Calder, Eliza S.
Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, 12, Article Q11006(11)

A near real-time dual-band-spatial approach to determine the source of increased radiance from closely spaced active volcanoes in coarse resolution satellite data (2011-11)
Van Manen, Saskia M.; Blake, Stephen and Dehn, Jonathan
International Journal of Remote Sensing, 32(21) (pp. 6055-6069)

´A´ā lava flows in the Deccan Volcanic Province, India, and their significance for the nature of continental flood basalt eruptions (2011)
Brown, Richard J.; Blake, S.; Bondre, N. R.; Phadnis, V. M. and Self, S.
Bulletin of Volcanology, 73(6) (pp. 737-752)

Sulfur release from the Columbia River Basalts and other flood lava eruptions constrained by a model of sulfide saturation (2010-11)
Blake, S.; Self, S.; Sharma, K. and Sephton, S.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 299(3-4) (pp. 328-338)

Satellite thermal observations of the Bezymianny lava dome 1993–2008: Precursory activity, large explosions, and dome growth (2010-08-17)
van Manen, S. M.; Dehn, J. and Blake, S.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 115, Article B08205(B8)

Apparent tidal influence on magmatic activity at Oldoinyo Lengai volcano, Tanzania, as observed in Moderate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data (2010-01-01)
van Manen, Saskia M.; Kervyn, Matthieu; Blake, Stephen and Ernst, Gerald G. J.
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 189(1-2) (pp. 151-157)

The AD 1362 Öræfajökull eruption, S.E. Iceland: Physical volcanology and volatile release (2008-12)
Sharma, Kirti; Self, Stephen; Blake, Stephen; Thordarson, Thorvaldur and Larsen, Gudrun
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 178(4) (pp. 719-739)

Halving of the northern wetland CH4 source by a large Icelandic volcanic eruption (2008-09-11)
Gauci, Vincent; Blake, Stephen; Stevenson, David S. and Highwood, Eleanor J.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 113, Article G00A11(G3)

Deep-seated fractionation during the rise of a small-volume basalt magma batch: Crater Hill, Auckland, New Zealand (2008-04)
Smith, I. E. M.; Blake, S.; Wilson, C. J. N. and Houghton, B. F.
Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 155(4) (pp. 511-527)

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)

Consequences of explosive super-eruptions (2008-02)
Self, Stephen and Blake, Stephen
Elements, 4(1) (pp. 41-46)

Correlations between SO2 flux, seismicity, and outgassing activity at the open vent of Villarrica volcano, Chile (2008)
Palma, José Luis; Calder, Eliza S.; Basualto, Daniel; Blake, Stephen and Rothery, David A.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 113(B10) (B10201)

Role of syneruptive cooling and degassing on textures of lavas from the AD 1783-1784 LAki eruption, south Iceland (2007)
Guilbaud, M.-N.; Blake, S.; Thordarson, T. and Self, S.
Journal of Petrology, 48(7) (pp. 1265-1294)

Magma chamber recharge at Vesuvius in the century prior to the eruption of A.D. 79 (2006-10)
Morgan, D. J.; Blake, S.; Rogers, N. W.; De Vivi, B.; Rolandi, G. and Davidson, J. P.
Geology, 34(10) (pp. 845-848)

Segregation processes in vesiculating crystallizing magmas (2006-05-15)
Costa, A.; Blake, S. and Self, S.
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 153(3-4) (pp. 287-300)

Magmatic residence times of zoned phenocrysts: introduction and application of the binary element diffusion modelling (BEDM) technique (2006-01)
Morgan, D.J. and Blake, S.
Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 151(1) (pp. 58-70)

The 26.5 ka Oruanui Eruption, Taupo Volcano, New Zealand: Development, characteristics and evacuation of a large rhyolitic magma body (2006-01)
Wilson, C. J. N.; Blake, S.; Charlier, B. L. A. and Sutton, A. N.
Journal of Petrology, 47(1) (pp. 35-69)

Magma differentiation rates from (226Ra/230Th) and the size and power output of magma chambers (2005-08-15)
Blake, Stephen and Rogers, Nick
Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 236(3-4) (pp. 654-669)

Spatter (2005-04-01)
Sumner, J.M.; Blake, S.; Matela, R.J. and Wolff, J.A.
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 142(1-2) (pp. 49-65)

Magma Generation at a Large, Hyperactive Silicic Volcano (Taupo, New Zealand) Revealed by U–Th and U–Pb Systematics in Zircons (2005-01)
Charlier, B.L.A.; Wilson, C.J.N.; Lowenstern, J.B.; Blake, S.; van Calsteren, P.W. and Davidson, J.P.
Journal of Petrology, 46(1) (pp. 3-32)

Long-term suppression of wetland methane flux following a pulse of simulated acid rain (2005)
Gauci, Vincent; Dise, Nancy and Blake, Stephen
Geophysical Research Letters, 32(L12804)

Rates and Timescales of fractional crystallisation from 238U–230Th–226Ra disequilibria in trachyte lavas from Longonot Volcano, Kenya (2004-09)
Rogers, Nick W.; Evans, Peter J.; Blake, Steve; Scott, Stuart C. and Hawkesworth, Chris J.
Journal of Petrology, 45(9) (pp. 1747-1776)

SO2 emissions from basaltic eruptions, and the excess sulfur issue (2004-07)
Sharma, K.; Blake, S.; Self, S. and Kreuger, A.J.
Geophysical Research Letters, 31, Article L13612(13)

Time scales of crystal residence and magma chamber volume from modelling of diffusion profiles in phenocrysts: Vesuvius 1944 (2004-06-15)
Morgan, D.J.; Blake, S.; Rogers, N.W.; De Vivo, B.; Rolandi, G.; Macdonald, R. and Hawkesworth, C.J.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 222(3-4) (pp. 933-946)

Magma flow regimes in sills deduced from Ar isotope systematics of host rocks (2001)
Wartho, Jo-Anne; Kelley, Simon and Blake, Stephen
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 106(B3) (pp. 4017-4035)

Late Quaternary evolution of a hyperactive rhyolite magmatic system: Taupo volcanic centre, New Zealand (2000)
Sutton, Andrew N.; Blake, Stephen; Wilson, Colin J. N. and Charlier, Bruce L. A.
Journal of the Geological Society, 157(3) (pp. 537-552)

Volcanoes (2021)
Blake, Stephen
In: Alderton, David and Elias, Scott A. eds. Encyclopedia of Geology, 2nd edition (pp. 258-276)
ISBN : 978-0-08-102909-1 | Publisher : Academic Press | Published : London, UK

The 2006 eruption of Augustine Volcano – combined analyses of thermal satellite data and reduced displacement (2010)
van Manen, Saskia M.; Dehn, Jonathan; West, Michael E.; Blake, Stephen and Rothery, David A.
In: Power, John A.; Coombs, Michelle L. and Freymueller, Jeffrey T. eds. The 2006 eruption of Augustine Volcano, Alaska. USGS Professional Paper (1769) (pp. 553-567)
Publisher : US Geological Survey | Published : Reston, VA, USA

Morphology, surface structures, and emplacement of lavas produced by Laki, A.D. 1783–1784 (2005)
Guilbaud, M.-N.; Self, S.; Thordarson, T. and Blake, S.
In: Manga, Michael and Ventura, Guido eds. Kinematics and dynamics of lava flows. Geological Society of America Special Paper (396) (pp. 81-102)
ISBN : 813723965 | Publisher : Geological Society of America | Published : USA

Correlations between eruption magnitude, SO2 yield, and surface cooling (2003-07-09)
Blake, S.
In: Oppenheimer, C.; Pyle, D.M. and Barclay, J. eds. Volcanic Degassing. GSL Special Publications (pp. 371-380)
ISBN : 1-86239-136-X | Publisher : Geological Society Publishing House | Published : London, UK

Volcanic influences on the atmospheric methane budget (2003-04)
Gauci, V.; Blake, S. and Stevenson, D.
In : EGS - AGU - EUG Joint Assembly (6-11 Apr 2003, Nice, France)