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James Christie

James ChristieJames Christie smiles at the camera.






I am all about natural hazards, but with a particular interest in volcanism and the associated hazards, and the impact of these on people. During my undergraduate I went full circle and managed to turn a GCSE Geography case study into my dissertation and was fortunate enough to go out to Montserrat and speak to the population about their life with an active volcano, specifically whether there were any clear differences in their risk perception according to how much of the disaster they have been through: more a social psychology study that happened to be related to a volcano. This was without doubt the best month of my life, so when I saw that there was a PhD opportunity at UEA that involved working on Montserrat again, I had no hesitation (some say I’m in it just for the holiday). I have recently completed a MSc in Geophysical Hazards at University College London, where I maintained a broad focus on all sorts of natural hazards, and completed a thesis evaluating the effectiveness of a variety of mass-flow models when simulating the debris flows that follow the collapse of mine tailings dams behind which millions of tons of mine waste is stored.


2016-17: Geophysical Hazards MSc, University College London

Thesis: ‘Simulating tailngs inundation following the collapse of the Prestavel mine tailings dam, near Stava, Italy: An evaluation of 3 computational mass-flow models.’


2012-15: Geography BA, University of Cambridge

Dissertation: ‘The Influence of Personal Experience on Volcanic Risk Perception: Montserrat’



Current Research

‘Modelling lahar hazard and landscape disturbance following a volcanic eruption on the island of Montserrat’


The Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, has been in a state of recurring eruption since July 1995. It has exhibited five phases of extrusive behaviour, each have resulted in a variety of volcanic explosions. These explosions and other pyroclastic phenomena produce vast quantities of fine volcanic ash, and other larger volcanic and non-volcanic debris. Most often people envisage pyroclastic flows and ash clouds as the main hazards at volcanoes, and this is true, but these hazards persist only during the eruptive phases. Another hazard, lahars, can persist for many decades after the eruption has ceased and the volcano has gone ‘back to sleep’. During and after eruptions, this erupted material lies loosely on the volcano’s flanks which means that when it rains, it can quickly saturate and it begins to flow downhill.  These are volcaniclastic mudflows, but are commonly termed as lahars, a name from Indonesia, where these phenomena are common. There are a number of models available that attempt to model the physics and dynamics of lahars in order to produce hazard maps for areas, based on what sort of volume of material is likely to be mobilised, but none consider how the volcanic material is depleted overtime, or how it is stabilised by vegetation etc. My project will aim to produce a model that attempts to do this, By building on the work of my supervisor’s PhD, during which she produced the model SedCas. I hope to refine this model and calibrate it with data from Montserrat, in order to make projections of the probability of lahars of given volumes occurring after given lengths of time into the future, under a variety of climate change scenarios. Hopefully, this will work to aid hazard management on the island by giving them some degree of quantitative estimate of how long the land usually affected by lahars will be potentially dangerous. Beyond this, if the model is successful, I suppose the dream would be that further work would calibrate it to other volcanoes, and then somewhere down the line, the model could be used soon after an eruption on various volcanoes to give the authorities an idea of how long they need to be vigilant. Though that’s all blue sky thinking and way beyond the means of this project…


Supervisory Team

My primary supervisor is Dr Georgina Bennett, who is a geomorphologist by background. My secondary supervisors are Prof. Jenni Barclay (UEA volcanologist), Dr Melanie Froude (University of Sheffield), and Dr Adam Stinton (volcanologist at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory).