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Department of Earth Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Richard James Brown

Personal web page

Associate Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42303
Room number: Rm 337

Contact Dr Richard James Brown (email at


2015-present — Senior Lecturer, Durham University
2011–2015 — Lecturer and Coordinator of the Volcanic Margins Research Consortium, Durham University
2008–2011 — Research Fellow, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The Open University
2004–2008 — Research Associate, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol
2002–2004 — Research Fellow, Vesuvius Volcano Observatory, Naples
2002—PhD, University of Leicester


Volcanic Margins Research Consortium

Career Research Interests

Volcanology in general, pyroclastic sedimentology, and the mass movement of debris across the Earth's surface following geo-catastrophes. Primarily use field studies of deposits to derive information about emplacement processes. Application of volcanology to the petroleum and mining industries. Specifically interested in:

  • impact of volcanic and igneous rocks on hydrocarbon systems (Volcanic Margins Research Consortium).
  • the transport and deposition of tephra by pyroclastic density currents;
  • basaltic volcanism, effusive and explosive;
  • volcanic edifice growth and evolution, encompassing all scales from monogenetic cones, to calderas, ocean island volcanoes and large igneous provinces;
  • aggregation mechanisms in atmospheric dust clouds applied to volcanic eruptions and meteorite impacts;
  • kimberlite volcanism and conduit processes;
  • dispersal of ejecta following large meteorite impacts.

I currently have ongoing research projects in El Salvador (AD563 Tierra Blanca Joven eruption of Ilopango); Campi Flegrei and Ischia, Italy; Tenerife; Iceland, UK Lake District.

Google Scholar site

Committee and Society Service

Associate Editor, Bulletin of Volcanology
Secretary, Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group
Leader of Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group 40th Anniversary fieldtrip to Tenerife, 2006
Media interest in our 2011 Journal of Geology paper revealing how meteorite ejecta blankets are emplaced.

Conferences and Workshops

2013  — Convener “Observation, theory and experiments on volcanogenic mass flows” IAVCEI General Assembly, Kagoshima, Japan,2013.
2012  — Co-organiser Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group AGM, Durham, UK,2012.
2010  — Convener “What can pyroclasts tell us?” AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, USA, 2010.
2007  — Leader of IAVCEI Commission on Explosive Volcanism field workshop: Pyroclastic Density Currents and Topography, Tenerife, 2007.
2006  — Leader of Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group 40th Anniversary fieldtrip to Tenerife, 2006.


2013 — IAVCEI General Assembly
2012 — VMSG Annual Meeting, Durham
2011 — IUGG, Melbourne
2011 — 5th VVSG Goias, Brazil

Membership of Organisations and Societies

Member, IAVCEI

Recent and Current Grants

2012  — £27 000 NIGFSC, “Priming a magma chamber for catastrophic eruption timescales of magma supply beneath the caldera volcano of Ischia, Italy” PI- RJ Brown and others
2011  — £111 000 Hess Limited, “Characterising the architecture and petrophysical properties of basaltic rocks from fissure eruptions”, studentship, PI
2010  — £15 000 National Geographic Committee on Research and Exploration Grant (No. 8562-08), “Large eruptions through large lakes”, PI; Co-I — Prof. Bruce Houghton (Hawaii), Dr. James Vallance (USGS)
2009  — £4 000 Royal Society International Travel Grant, PI, Co-I — S Manya
2009  — £2 500 NERC GEF Loan of GPS Equipment (No. 894), RSJ Sparks (Bristol), RJ Brown
2008  — £17 000 National Geographic Committee on Research and Exploration Grant (No. 8562-08), “Understanding how kimberlite magmas behave at the Earth’s surface”, PI - RJ Brown; Co-Is — S Manya (Dar es Salaam), RSJ Sparks, M Field, C Storey (Bristol)
2007  — £38 700 co-supervisor of NERC-CASE Studentship at Oxford University
1997  — Awarded NERC studentship (N4/97/144), Leicester

Indicators of Esteem

  • Invited talks:

    North East Geological Society, 2013; University of British Columbia, Canada, 2011, Edinburgh Geological Society, 2011; University of Glasgow, 2011; LMU Munich, 2010; Museum fur Naturkunde, Humboldt University, Berlin, 2010; Earth Observatory Singapore, 2010; Open University, UK, 2007; NSF Workshop, Prescott, AZ, 2007; University of Leicester, UK, 2004

  • Scientific Community Roles: Secretary IAVCEI Commission on Volcanogenic Sedimentation

Research Groups

Department of Earth Sciences

Teaching Areas

  • Earth Materials (20 hours/year.)
  • Field Seminar (75 hours/year.)
  • Geoinformatics (15 hours/year.)
  • Magmatism (Tenerife) (38 hours/year.)



Chapter in book

  • Durant, AJ & Brown, RJ (2016). Ash Aggregation in Volcanic Clouds. In Volcanic Ash. Mackie, S, Cashman, K,, Ricketts, H, Rust, A & Watson, M Elsevier. 53-66.
  • Brown. RJ & Andrews, GDM (2015). Deposits of Pyroclastic Density Currents. In Encyclopedia of Volcanoes. Elsevier.
  • Brown, RJ (2008). The Formation of Diamonds. In The Seventy Great Mysteries of the Natural World. Benton, MJ Thames-Hudson.
  • Brown, RJ (2008). Which was the Largest Ever Volcanic Eruption? In The Seventy Great Mysteries of the Natural World. Benton, MJ Thames-Hudson.
  • Brown, RJ & Calder, ES (2005). Pyroclastics (including Tuffs, Ignimbrites and Ash). In Encyclopedia of Geology. Selley, RC, Cocks, LRM & Plimer, IR Elsevier. 4: 386-397.

Journal Article

  • Mark, N.J., Schofield, N., Pugliese, S., Watson, D., Holford, S., Muirhead, D., Brown, R. & Healy, D. (2018). Igneous intrusions in the Faroe Shetland basin and their implications for hydrocarbon exploration; new insights from well and seismic data. Marine and Petroleum Geology 92: 733-753.
  • Reynolds, P., Schofield, N., Brown, R.J. & Holford, S.P. (2018). The architecture of submarine monogenetic volcanoes – insights from 3D seismic data. Basin Research 30(S1): 437-451.
  • Grove, Clayton, Jerram, Dougal A., Gluyas, Jon G. & Brown, Richard J. (2017). Sandstone Diagenesis in Sediment–lava Sequences: Exceptional Examples of Volcanically Driven Diagenetic Compartmentalization in Dune Valley, Huab Outliers, Nw Namibia. Journal of Sedimentary Research 87(12): 1314-1335.
  • Scarlato, P., Mollo, S., Del Bello, E., von Quadt, A., Brown, R.J., Gutierrez, E., Martinez-Hackert, B. & Papale, P. (2017). The 2013 eruption of Chaparrastique volcano (El Salvador): Effects of magma storage, mixing, and decompression. Chemical Geology 448: 110-122.
  • Chamberlain, K.J., Barclay, J., Preece, K., Brown, R.J., Davidson, J.P. & EIMF (2016). Origin and evolution of silicic magmas at ocean islands: Perspectives from a zoned fall deposit on Ascension Island, South Atlantic. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 327: 349-360.
  • Karaoğlu, O. & Brown, R.J. (2016). Reconstructing the evolution of an eroded Miocene caldera volcano (Yamanlar volcano, İzmir, Turkey). Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 318: 1-18.
  • Reynolds, P., Brown, R.J., Thordarson, T. & Llewellin, E. (2016). The architecture and shallow conduits of Laki-type pyroclastic cones: insights into a basaltic fissure eruption. Bulletin of Volcanology 78(5): 36.
  • Brown, R.J., Thordarson, T., Self, S. & Blake, S. (2015). Disruption of Tephra Fall Deposits Caused by Lava Flows during Basaltic Eruptions. Bulletin of Volcanology 77(10): 90.
  • Willcox, A., Buisman, I., Sparks, R.S.J., Brown, R.J., Manya, S., Schumacher, J.C. & Tuffen, H. (2015). Petrology, geochemistry and low-temperature alteration of lavas and pyroclastic rocks of the kimberlitic Igwisi Hills volcanoes, Tanzania. Chemical Geology 405: 82-101.
  • Tomlinson, E.L., Albert, P.G., Wulf, S., Brown, R.J., Smith, V.C., Keller, J, Orsi, G., Bourne, A.J. & Menzies, M. (2014). Age and geochemistry of tephra layers from Ischia, Italy: constraints from proximal-distal correlations with Lago Grande di Monticchio. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 287: 22-39.
  • Brown, R.J., Civetta, L., Arienzo, I., D'Antonio, M., Moretti, R., Orsi, G., Tomlinson, E.L., Albert, P.G. & Menzies, M.A. (2014). Geochemical and isotopic insights into the assembly, evolution and disruption of a magmatic plumbing system before and after a cataclysmic caldera-collapse eruption at Ischia volcano (Italy). Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 168(3): 1035.
  • Jones, T.J., Russell, J.K., Porritt, L.A. & Brown, R.J. (2014). Morphology and surface features of olivine in kimberlite: implications for ascent processes. Solid Earth 5(1): 313-326.
  • Brown, R.J., Blake, S., Thordarson, T. & Self, S. (2014). Pyroclastic edifices record vigorous lava fountains during the emplacement of a flood basalt flow field, Roza Member, Columbia River Basalt Province, USA. Geological Society of America Bulletin 126(7-8): 875-891.
  • Watton, T.J., Wright, K.A., Jerram, D.A. & Brown, R.J. (2014). The petrophysical and petrographical properties of hyaloclastite deposits: Implications for petroleum exploration. AAPG Bulletin 98(3): 449-463.
  • Watton, TJ, Cannon, S, Brown, RJ, Jerram, DA & Waichel, BL (2014). Using formation micro-imaging, wireline logs and onshore analogues to distinguish volcanic lithofacies in boreholes: examples from Palaeogene successions in the Faroe–Shetland Basin, NE Atlantic. Geological Society, London, Special Publications 397: 173-192
  • Brown, R.J. & Branney, M.J. (2013). Internal flow variations and diachronous sedimentation within extensive, sustained, density-stratified pyroclastic density currents flowing down gentle slopes, as revealed by the internal architectures of ignimbrites on Tenerife. Bulletin of Volcanology 75(7): 727.
  • Brown, RJ & Valentine, GA (2013). Physical characteristics of kimberlite and basaltic intraplate volcanism and implications of a biased kimberlite record. Geological Society of America Bulletin 125(7-8): 1224-1238.
  • Phillips, J.C., Humphreys, M.C.S., Daniels, K.A., Brown, R.J. & Witham, F. (2013). The formation of columnar joints produced by cooling in basalt at Staffa, Scotland. Bulletin of Volcanology 75(6): 715.
  • Brown, RJ, Bonadonna, C & Durant, AJ (2012). A review of volcanic ash aggregation. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C 45-46: 65-78.
  • Brown, RJ, Manya, S, Buisman, I, Fontana, G, Field, M, Niocaill, CM, Sparks, RSJ & Stuart, FM (2012). Eruption of kimberlite magmas: physical volcanology, geomorphology and age of the youngest kimberlitic volcanoes known on earth (the Upper Pleistocene/ Holocene Igwisi Hills volcanoes, Tanzania). Bulletin of Volcanology 74(7): 1621-1643.
  • Gernon, TM Brown, RJ , Tait, M & Hincks, TK (2012). The origin of pelletal lapilli in explosive kimberlite eruptions. Nature Communications 3: 832.
  • Brown, RJ, Blake, S, Bondre, NR, Phadnis, VM & Self, S (2011). ́Áā lava flows in the Deccan Volcanic Province, India, and their significance for the nature of continental flood basalt eruptions. Bulletin of Volcanology 73(6): 737-752.
  • Fontana, G, Mac Nio Caill, C, Brown, RJ, Sparks, RSJ & Field, M (2011). Emplacement temperatures of pyroclastic and volcaniclastic deposits in kimberlite pipes in southern Africa. Bulletin of Volcanology 73(8): 1063-1083.
  • Branney, MJ & Brown, RJ (2011). Impactoclastic density current emplacement of terrestrial meteorite-impact ejecta and the formation of dust pellets and accretionary lapilli: Evidence from Stac Fada, Scotland. The Journal of Geology 119(3): 275-292.
  • Brown, RJ, Branney, MJ,, Maher, C & Davila Harris, PD (2010). Origin of accretionary lapilli within ground-hugging density currents: Evidence from pyroclastic couplets on Tenerife. Geological Society of America Bulletin 122(1-2): 305-320.
  • Brown RJ, Tait, M, Field, M & Sparks, RSJ (2009). Geology of a complex kimberlite pipe (K2 pipe, Venetia Mine, South Africa): Insights into conduit processes during explosive ultrabasic eruptions. Bulletin of Volcanology 71(1): 95.
  • Gernon, T.M., Fontana, G., Field, M., Sparks, R.S.J., Brown, R.J. & Mac Nio Caill, C. (2009). Pyroclastic flow deposits from a kimberlite eruption the Orapa South Crater, Botswana. Lithos 112(Supplement 1): 566-578.
  • Brown, RJ, Gernon, TM, Stiefenhofer, J & Field, M (2008). Geological constraints on the eruption of the Jwaneng Centre kimberlite pipe, Botswana. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 174(1-3): 195.
  • Brown, R.J., Orsi, G. & De Vita, S. (2008). New insights into Late Pleistocene explosive volcanic activity and caldera formation on Ischia (southern Italy). Bulletin of Volcanology 70(5): 583-603.
  • Brown, RJ, Buse, B, Sparks, RSJ & Field, M (2008). On the welding of pyroclasts from very low-viscosity magmas: examples from kimberlite volcanoes. The Journal of Geology 116(4): 354-374.
  • Brown, RJ, Field, M, Gernon, TM, Gilbertson, M & Sparks, RSJ (2008). Problems with an in-vent column collapse model for the emplacement of massive volcaniclastic kimberlite. A discussion of 'In-vent column collapse as an alternative model for massive volcaniclastic kimberlite emplacement: An example from the Fox kimberlite, Ekati Diamond Mine, NWT, Canada' by Porritt et al. [J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 174, 90-102]. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 178(4): 847-850.
  • Sparks, RSJ, Brown, RJ, Field, M & Gilbertson, M (2007). Kimberlite ascent and eruption. Nature 450(7172): E21.
  • Brown, RJ, Kavanagh, J, Sparks, RSJ, Tait, M & Field, M (2007). Mechanically disrupted and chemically weakened zones in segmented dike systems cause vent localization: Evidence from kimberlite volcanic systems. Geology 35(9): 815-818.
  • Brown, R.J., Kokelaar, B.P. & Branney, M.J. (2007). Widespread transport of pyroclastic density currents from a large silicic tuff ring: The Glaramara tuff, Scafell caldera, English Lake District, UK. Sedimentology 54(5): 1163-1190.
  • Sparks, RSJ, Baker, L, Brown, RJ, Field, M, Schumacher, J, Stripp, G & Walters, A (2006). Dynamical constraints on kimberlite volcanism. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 155(1-2): 18.
  • Walters, A, Phillips, JC, Brown, RJ, Field, M, Gernon, TM, Stripp, G & Sparks, RSJ (2006). The role of fluidisation in the formation of volcaniclastic kimberlite: Grain size observations and experimental investigation. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 155(1-2): 119.
  • Brown, R.J. & Branney, M.J. (2004). Bypassing and diachronous deposition from density currents: Evidence from a giant regressive bed form in the Poris ignimbrite, Tenerife, Canary Islands. Geology 32(5): 445-448.
  • Brown, RJ & Branney, MJ (2004). Event-stratigraphy of a caldera-forming ignimbrite eruption on Tenerife: The 273 ka Poris Formation. Bulletin of Volcanology 66(5).
  • Brown, RJ, Barry, TL, Branney, MJ,, Pringle, MS & Bryan, SE (2003). The Quaternary pyroclastic succession of southeast Tenerife, Canary Islands: Explosive eruptions, related caldera subsidence, and sector collapse. Geological Magazine 140(3): 265.