Donald Dingwell: Magma to Tephra: Ash in the Earth System

Experimental Volcanology | Academic Year 2018/2019

The investigation of volcanic activity at the surface of our Earth demands an inherently interdisciplinary scientific approach – from geophysics and fluid mechanics, to atmospheric chemistry, biochemistry, material and social science.

To provide a scientific synthesis of shallow volcanic systems, the research group of Prof. Dr. Donald Dingwell divides the shallow and surface volcanic system into three fundamental physical components:

  • The upper parts of a volcanic plumbing system are permeable to through-flowing volatile acid gases and thus, the magma itself acts a physico-chemical filter, reacting and altering with time, growing and dissolving crystals and glass, and corroding the liquid phase in a complex cocktail of reactivity.
  • During eruption the magma undergoes a material transition from a coherent mass to volcanic ash in a dusty gas, increasing the surface area available for reactions by orders of magnitude.
  • And as ash is transported through an initially hot, and dynamically cooling plume of those same acid gases, it continues to react. In this latter phase, ash can take up significant proportions of biologically relevant elements, effectively storing them on the ash surface ready for release into the biosphere when the ash is deposited.

In the above framework, the research Group tracks the complex reactions between magma and volatile gases over the full lifecycle of ash from source to sink – that is, from eruption in the lithosphere through to incorporation in our bio- and anthroposphere.


Dr. María Alejandra Arciniega Ceballos

National Autonomous University of Mexico


Dr. Antonio Costa

Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Bologna

Environmental Physics

Prof. Dr. Andrea Di Muro

Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris / Vulkanologisches Observatorium des Piton de la Fournaise, La Réunion


Prof. Dr. Hugo Delgado

National Autonomous University of Mexico


Prof. Dr. Daniele Giordano

University of Turin

Experimental Volcanology, Geochemistry and Petrology

Prof. Zhengfu Guo, Ph.D.

Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing


Prof. Einat Lev, Ph.D.

Columbia University


Prof. Joan Martí Molist, Ph.D.

Spanish Scientific Research Council, Barcelona


Prof. Kelly Russell, Ph.D.

University of British Columbia


Prof. Dr. Roberto Sulpizio

University of Bari


Prof. Dr. Fabian Wadsworth

Durham University



  • Wintersemester 2018/19
    The Pacific Ring of Fire: Insights from Canada and China
    Lunch Talk
  • Sommersemester 2019
    Volcanic Ash in the Earth System: Generation, Dispersal, Consequences