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Research Interests

Philip R. Kyle, Professor of Geochemistry

My research interests lie mainly in the fields of volcanology and petrology, with many studies in Antarctica; however; over the last few years I have traveled around the world looking at a number of active volcanoes. Within the field of volcanology I cover a wide range of interests from petrology and magmatic evolution to measuring volcanic gas emissions. When I am home I can be found in the lab. I run a state-of-the-art x-ray fluorescence (XRF) facility, housed in the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, and a neutron activation laboratory.

For 26 years I have worked on the active volcano Mount Erebus in Antarctica and currently am in charge of the Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory. The summit of Mt. Erebus is like no place else on earth. Erebus is a unique 3794 m high volcano which contains a persistent convecting lake of phonolitic magma. Lava in the crater is about 1,000 degrees C while air temperature in the summer averages -20 to -40 degrees C. It is a difficult and challenging place to work. The combination of cold air temperatures and geothermal activity results in amazing thermal features such as tall cylindrical ice towers (frozen fumaroles) and caves melted out of the snow and ice by warm gases. To keep you on your toes, Erebus erupts daily. To date 8 students have completed their thesis or dissertation on some aspect of the volcanology of Erebus. In November 1999 in collaboration with Rick Aster in Geophysics we have begun a four-year multi-disciplinary program using broad-band seismic observations combined with gas measurements and GPS observations to get a better understanding of the eruptive mechanisms of the volcano.

Since 1992 I have spent my summers in Kamchatka, Russia. This is the home to some spectacular volcanoes and almost unlimited opportunities for research on all aspects of volcanology. In association with Russian and American volcanology colleagues I have worked on measuring SO2 emissions occurring during Strombolian eruptions of Karymsky volcano, and have examined the Kurile Lake eruption which occurred 7700 years ago; this eruption was bigger and more violent that the Mount Mazama eruption which formed Crater Lake in Oregon at about the same time. I am also very interested in tephra studies, and currently have several projects on Kamchatka tephra. Three students are working on theses on Kamchatka material.

In July 1999 we examined the volcano Yasur in Vanuatu (a country of 80 islands between Fiji and Australia) which has been erupting continuously since its discovery by Captain James Cook in the 1770s.

New Mexico is a state in which young volcanic rocks are abundant and exciting petrologic and field-oriented projects abound. Geophysical observations have identified magma at depth in the Rio Grande rift north of Socorro. Perhaps the next volcanic eruption in the continental U.S. will be in New Mexico.

Created: ( Monday, 19 September 2011 10:57 )
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