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Dr Emma Liu

Dr Emma Liu

Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow


Volatile geochemistry, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), Magma fragmentation


Research Interests

Volcanic eruptions release vast quantities of ash, gas, and aerosols into the atmosphere. These emissions pose significant societal, environmental and climatic hazards that operate over a range of timescales from days to decades. My research focuses on constraining the magmatic processes that govern the magnitude and impact of volcanic emissions: my previous PhD work investigated how volcanic ash is formed during eruptions, whilst my current fellowship research explores the geochemical controls on the outgassing of sulfur and metals from volcanoes, and the implications for the global sulfur cycle.

Sulfur is a key volatile constituent of magmas and yet the global volcanic sulfur budget is still relative poorly constrained, at least in part due to uncertainty in the role of co-existing sulfide phases in controlling the availability of sulfur and ‘sulfur-loving’ (chalcophile) metals during magma ascent. By integrating petrological and geochemical data from erupted tephra with atmospheric measurements of SO2 and metal aerosol in volcanic plumes, I invrestigate the conditions under which sulfide phases scavenge and release sulfur and chalcophile metals in mafic volcanic systems, and the timescales over which this may occur.

A key practical aspect of my on-going work is the development and field application of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for in-situ gas and metal measurements within previously accessible volcanic plumes. You can follow my field expeditions on Twitter @EmmaLiu31


Petrology ; Volcanology ; Geochemistry


  • Volcanology
  • Volatile geochemical cycling
  • Igneous petrology
  • Icelandic Magmatism

Key Publications

Liu, E.J., Cashman, K.V., Rust, A.C. and Edmonds, M., 2018. Insights into the dynamics of mafic magmatic-hydromagmatic eruptions from volatile degassing behaviour: The Hverfjall Fires, Iceland. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 358, 228-240. doi:

Liu, E.J., Cashman, K.V., Rust, A.C. and Höskuldsson, A. (2017). 'Contrasting mechanisms of magma fragmentation during coeval magmatic and hydromagmatic activity: the Hverfjall Fires fissure eruption, Iceland'. Bulletin of Volcanology, 79(10), 68. doi:10.1007/s00445-017-1150-8

Oliva, M., Antoniades, D., Giralt, S., Granados, I., Pla-Rabes, S., Toro, M., Liu, E.J., Sanjurjo, J., & Viera, G., (2016). 'The Holocene deglaciation of the Byers Peninsula (Livingston Island, Antarctica) based on the
dating of lake sedimentary records'. Geomorphology, 261, 89-102.

Liu, E.J., Oliva, M., Antoniades, D., Giralt, S., Granados, I., Pla-Rabes, S., Toro, M., & Geyer, A., (2016). 'Expanding the tephrostratigraphical framework for the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica, by combining compositional and textural tephra characterisation'. Sedimentary Geology, 340, 49-61.

Liu, E. J., Cashman, K.V., & Rust, A.C. (2015). 'Optimising shape analysis to quantify volcanic ash morphology'. GeoResJ, 8, 14-30.

Liu, E. J., Cashman, K.V., Rust, A.C., & Gislason, S. R. (2015). 'The role of bubbles in generating fine ash during hydromagmatic eruptions'. Geology, 43(3), 239-242.

Liu, E.J., Cashman, K.V., Beckett, F., Witham, C., Hort, H., Leadbetter S., & Gudmundsson, S. (2014). 'Ash mists and brown snow: remobilisation of volcanic ash from recent Icelandic eruptions', Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres., 119 (15), 9463-9480. doi: 10.1002/2014JD021598

Lamb, O. D., Varley, N. R., Mather, T. A., Pyle, D. M., Smith, P. J., & Liu, E.J. (2014). 'Multiple timescales of cyclical behaviour observed at two dome-forming eruptions', Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 284, 106-121. doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2014.07.013

Nicholson, E. J., Mather, T. A., Pyle, D. M., Odbert, H. M., & Christopher, T. (2013). 'Cyclical patterns in volcanic degassing revealed by SO2 flux timeseries analysis: An application to Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat', Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 375, 209-221. doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2013.05.032

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