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Academic & Professional Books  Earth System Sciences  Geosphere  Volcanology


By: Peter Francis(Author), Clive Oppenheimer(Author)
521 pages, 570 figs
Despite its age, Volcanoes remains a good introductory textbook to volcanology that is both enjoyable and accessible.
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  • Volcanoes ISBN: 9780199254699 Edition: 2 Paperback Dec 2003 Usually dispatched within 6 days
Price: £48.99
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About this book

The impact of volcanic eruptions on the Earth's environment has been the source of many a debate and the cause of extensive research activities by leading academics worldwide. The new edition of Peter Francis's Volcanoes preserves the particular strengths of the orignal in its accessibility, immense clarity, engaging humour and excellent illustrations.

Volcanoes updates the original by reflecting on new research findings and new eruptions (such as that on Montserrat) as well as including a new chapter on volcanic hazards, which looks at the complex and scientific and sociological issues surrounding risk mitigation. In updating the planetary perspective of the book new co-author Clive Oppenheimer provides us with an insight into studies of Mars and Jupiter.

Volcanoes is designed primarily for undergraduate students across a range of disciplines including geology, Earth sciences, geography, environmental sciences and planetary sciences, yet, is an equally valuable source for volcanologists, senior scientists in other disciplines and scientifically-trained volcano enthusiasts.


1: The Basics: isotopes and green cheese
2: Keeping planets cool: volcanoes, hot-spots, and plate tectonics
3: Four classic eruptions
4: Magma - the hot stuff
5: Types of volcanic activity
6: Lava Flows
7: Pyroclastic eruptions: bubbles, bangs, columns, and currents
8: What goes up must come down: pyroclastic fall deposits
9: Pyroclastic currents from collapsing domes and transient eruptions
10: Pyroclastic currents and ignimbrites associated with plinian eruptions
11: Super-eruptions, super-volcanoes and calderas
12: Debris avalanches and flows: magic carpets and muck
13: Volcanoes as landscape forms
14: Submarine volcanism
15: Extraterrestrial volcanoes
16: Eruptions and climate
17: Volcano monitoring
18: Reducing volcanic risks

Customer Reviews (1)

  • Good introductory textbook to volcanology
    By Leon (NHBS Catalogue Editor) 5 Aug 2020 Written for Paperback

    Volcanoes are some of the most awe-inspiring natural spectacles on our planet. There is much more to them, though, than the stereotypical image of a conical fire-spitting mountain, and I have been keen to learn more. As I searched for serious introductory books on volcanology, this was one title that kept coming up. But wait, why is a biologist reviewing geology textbooks?

    Short answer? Despite not having studied it, geology continues to fascinate me. Recently, I have started reading up on the subject. And thus I found myself eyeing up the new book Volcanotectonics. Yet, there is still a gap between having covered the essentials of geology and diving headlong into an advanced topic. Hoping to bridge that gap, I turned to Francis & Oppenheimer's Volcanoes.

    This book was first published in 1993 and authored by volcanology professor Peter Francis. When he passed away in 1999, his former PhD student Clive Oppenheimer, now a professor of volcanology in his own right, took it upon him to revise the text and bring it up to date for this second edition, published in 2003. Francis's desire was to write a book to be read rather than consulted. Volcanoes is thus less of a textbook than you might think: there are no chapter summaries or student exercises. What you will find is a logical flow of chapters detailing the inner workings of volcanoes, glued together by the fascinating stories of past eruptions and, occasionally, Francis's trademark humour, lampooning the field of volcanology.

    Volcanoes starts with very primordial questions. Where do the heat and the rocks that drive volcanism come from? This introduces you to planetary formation and the radioactive decay of isotopes. In case you were expecting to start with plate tectonics, that is the next subject to be tackled. This explains the difference between volcanoes at plate margins where the oceanic crust is either formed or destroyed, and the minority occurring far from margins, such as the volcanic islands of Hawai'i.

    Chapters four to twelve form, to my mind, the nuts-and-bolts section of this book, going into all the gory details of an eruption from beginning to end. This covers everything from formation and movement of magma; different eruption styles; types of lava; eruption columns and the deposits of ash and pyroclastic rocks they leave behind; pyroclastic density currents, debris avalanches, and mudflows or lahars – and their deposits; the different landscape forms left after eruptions, including types of volcanoes and how they erode, and the landscape depressions known as calderas; super-eruptions; and, finally, the common but hard-to-observe phenomenon of underwater volcanism.

    The last four chapters cover closely allied topics: volcanoes in the solar system; the effects of recent eruptions on climate and the palaeoclimatological evidence of older ones; and, new to this edition, two chapters on monitoring of volcanoes, and assessing and managing the risks they pose.

    Two aspects, I thought, make this book very enjoyable to read. First, it broaches subjects without overwhelming you. When it talks of magma, it mentions the physics of gas bubble formation and growth (vesiculation), and the flow of liquid rock (rheology) without smothering you in detail. It will list different eruption styles (Hawaiian, Strombolian, Vulcanian, Plinian, etc.) and lavas (andesitic, dacitic, rhyolitic, etc.) while highlighting the arbitrary nature of such classifications, as these things exist on a continuum. And where formulas are given, for instance in the chapter on eruption columns, it is to demonstrate principles rather than go deep into the mathematics. If you are so inclined, each chapter comes with recommended sources and literature references for further research.

    The authors explain terminology as they go, supported by many photos and diagrams. I would have liked a glossary – lacking that, I occasionally had to grab my dictionary to jog my mind. For example by the distinction between central vent and large-scale fissure eruptions. By the underground movement of magma and intrusion of dikes. By the physics behind eruption columns and the interplay with the wind, and how to deduce eruption intensity from them. By the detective work that uses palaeoenvironmental records such as tree rings, and the extent and thickness of deposits to reconstruct eruptions for which there is no eyewitness testimony. Or by what makes pyroclastic density currents so terrifyingly destructive.

    The second aspect that makes Volcanoes very readable is that this is not a theoretical treatise with hypothetical scenarios. Explanations are given by means of real-world examples of past eruptions. Four classic ones are introduced early on (Vesuvius, Krakatau, Mount Pelée, and Mount St. Helens), but plenty of others are recounted throughout. This includes those familiar from popular accounts (e.g. Tambora, Laki, and Toba), technical books (e.g. Pinatubo and the Soufrière Hills volcano), and those only known to volcanologists and victims (e.g. El Chichón and Nevado del Ruiz). You will learn as much about these eruptions as about what we learned from them.

    Having read the book cover to cover, there remains one important question that is difficult for me to answer. Given its publication date, how up-to-date is it? And is it time for a new edition? Technological advances and new space missions have revealed much more about extraterrestrial volcanoes – this book was published before the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers started trundling over the surface of Mars, for example. But what about volcanism here on earth? Recent eruptions have probably taught us new lessons (2010 tongue-twister Eyjafjallajökull no doubt revealing more about ash clouds), but not being a student of earth sciences, this is a hard question for me to answer. The only other more recent book I could think of was The Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, published in a second edition in 2015. But at over 1400 pages this can hardly be called an introductory textbook.

    I decided to contact Clive Oppenheimer who kindly replied that there have not been any paradigmatic shifts in volcanology since then, but he did mention, in addition, the 2010 Merapi eruption, and highlighted new technology such as synchrotron radiation sources for fine scale chemical analysis of volcanic rocks. Additionally, he pointed out Volcanoes: Global Perspectives (2010) as a recent textbook. And a third edition? It is not yet in the making, though he hopes to get around to it when time allows.

    So, in sum, if you are looking for a good introductory volcanology textbook, I found this one both enjoyable and accessible. I came away feeling I understood much more about volcanoes. Bring on Volcanotectonics.
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The Late Peter Francis was Professor of Volcanology at the Open University and Clive Oppenheimer is a Lecturer in Geography at the University of Cambridge.

By: Peter Francis(Author), Clive Oppenheimer(Author)
521 pages, 570 figs
Despite its age, Volcanoes remains a good introductory textbook to volcanology that is both enjoyable and accessible.
Media reviews

"Oppenheimer does not shy away from difficult concepts, and as part of a more modern treatment of magma vesiculation (bubble formation) he presents a skilful precis of Yuri Siezin's catastrophe theory model, whereby a slight change in the pressure driving up a conduit can trigger an enormous change in magma ascent velocity."
Times Higher Education Supplement, April 2004

"In my opinion Dr Oppenheimer has combined the original work with new material to produce a superb book which is a pleasure to read and at a modest price it should be on the book list of everyone interested in volcanology"
– Elizabeth Maddocks, OUGS Journal 25 (2) Symposium Edition 2004.

Review from the first edition

"the work is organized around the styles of volcanism found on the earth [...] the lay reader is skilfully guided around or over the technical hurdles without the storyline being lost and perseverance, when it is needed, is rewarded by many fascinating details about particular eruptions [...] the thoroughness and range of the coverage in the text make this an excellent adjunct to the reading list for even a postgraduate course in volcanology [...] Francis has succeeded in producing an extremely readable, entertaining, authoritative and informative work that should bring a better appreciation of modern volcanology to a wide audience."
– Lionel Wilson, University of Lancaster, Nature, Vol. 364, August 1993

"This is simply the best book I have seen on the science that underlies modern understanding of volcanology – and on top of that it is a pleasure to read [...] a coherent and lively overview of his field, from historical accounts of great eruptions to lavas on Mars and elsewhere [...] it is difficult to put down, principally because of Francis's lively style [...] His lucid style and individual [...] voice entices committed and casual readers alike. This is the book for all those who have wondered why and how volcanoes erupt as they do, and are prepared to think a little to find out [...] what makes this text so compelling is the sense of contact with research. Francis refers throughout to the scientists involved – what they saw and how they interpreted their observations."
– Sue Bowler, New Scientist, September 1993

"In an easy-to-read style, he has produced a scholarly work that is a suitable text both for earth and environmental science students and for those who wish to know more about this important natural process. The book is extremely well illustrated with high-quality drawings and photographs. This is a good follow-up to the author's earlier and highly successful book on the same subject."
Times Higher Education Supplement

"This is above all a very readable account of one of the Earth's fundamental geological processes and as such will appeal equally to students of geology and geography, nonspecialists, and the general reader. The book is magnificently illustrated and the author writes from first hand experience of research in this field."
Aslib Book Guide, Vol. 59, No. 3, March 1994

"targeted specifically to a popular audience. It went on to achieve considerable success, in part because of its accessible style, low price, and lack of competitors [...] Francis has written a highly personal discourse, focusing on those volcanoes and topics that most captivate him [...] it is Francis's subtle appreciation of how volcanoes work that really sets this book apart."
Science, Vol 263, 21 January 1994

"Graduates would find much new material of interest and plenty of references for further study."
OUGS Journal 16.1, Spring Edition 1995

"In part, reading this book is simply a pleasure, as Francis and Oppenheimer write very clear and precise, adding occasionally the odd joke [...] To the present writer, this book is the best work on volcanoes and volcanology [...] the clarity of the presentation makes this book very readable for the educated non-special [...] I thus conclude: simply the best!"
– Dr Ulrich Knittel,

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