Not only is Edinburgh sat on an ancient volcano, now marked by 'Arthur's Seat', towering in the centre of the city, it will now mark the New Year by hosting the 50th meeting of the Geological Societies group associated with volcanic and magmatic rocks (VMSG January 5-8th 2014). In 1964 the first meeting was held of the specialist group 'Volcanic Studies Group' (which later became the Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group), at Burlington House in London. The meetings provide a platform for the igneous community to present new ideas, discuss projects and funding opportunities, and to promote the new up and coming Earth Scientists that are hooked on hot rocks. This meeting promises to be a big one with over 200 specialists from 20 different countries presenting a whole host of new research in the form of talks and scientific posters. The meeting is hosted by the University of Edinburgh-Geosciences and the British Geological Survey, and held at the John McIntyre conference centre.
Why should this matter? Well in 2010 when the Iceland volcanic crisis crippled Europe, British volcanologists were among the leaders providing technical advice, help with monitoring and developing key research into volcanic eruptions worldwide. Much of this knowledge is underpinned by our studies of the ancient volcanic systems that occur throughout the UK, as well as research on active volcanoes such as the Soufrière Hills volcano in Montserrat, the British Overseas Territory located in the Caribbean. Sue Loughlin (BGS) is part of the BSG team providing information about the civil contingency planning for volcanic risks in UK, should a new eruption threaten to shut Europe down again. The BGS will also be launching a new phone app 'myvolcano', which will help instruct you in the event of an eruption, pointing to the latest sources of information as well as how to collect ash samples to help the scientists monitor its progress. Sue has recently been honoured for her contribution to Volcanology with an MBE.
Other things of interest include Mike Widdowson (Open University) presenting on the Shatsky Rise volcano in the Pacific Ocean, dubbed the largest on Earth, and the official launch of the hit game 'Volcano Top Trumps', both of which I recently blogged about (see blog list). Honours are also a part of the meetings make-up, as the community uses the gathering as a platform to help recognise the contribution that individuals have made. The Minerological Society's 'Hallimond lecture', named in honour of Arthur Francis Hallimond (1890-1968), will be given by Sally Gibson (University Cambridge) explaining why continents are stable and where diamonds come from. The VMSG award for outstanding contribution to the igneous community goes to Jon Davidson (Durham University), who I have had the pleasure to work with, and he will talk about how you can use crystals from volcanoes as a window into understanding the magma system beneath. Finally there is a life time achievement award for Steve Sparks (University of Bristol), who will take us through a journey of how our understanding of volcanoes has developed over the last 50 years. As the fireworks of the hogmanay celebrations echo into the dawn of 2014, Edinburgh welcomes the volcanic explosion of VMSG, 50 years on, and helping to forge a new generation of Earth Scientists to help us understand our volcanic world.
Dougal is currently appearing as the geologist on the BBC2 program 'Operation Grand Canyon' and is writing a new book on volcanoes.