Professor John Smellie

Professor of Volcanology

School/Department: Geography, Geology & The Environment, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 3921



I am a volcanologist working on glaciovolcanism (eruptions beneath ice sheets) and palaeo-ice sheet reconstruction. Prior to moving to Leicester University I spent 35 years working for the British Antarctic Survey principally as Senior Volcanologist and Leader of many projects. I have worked mainly on volcanic and associated glacial sedimentary rocks right across Antarctica from the sub-Antarctic active volcanic South Sandwich Islands through the Antarctic Peninsula and West Antarctica to East Antarctica. I have also worked extensively in Iceland. I am a prolific author with > 200 publications (including the first textbook on glaciovolcanism) and editor or co-editor of 13 scientific volumes. I have successfully completed 26 field seasons in Antarctica including as Chief Scientist on two Antarctic cruises and 10 in Iceland.


My research is mainly aimed at establishing glaciovolcanism as an important distinctive component of hydrovolcanism and its application to deriving critical parameters of past terrestrial ice. I have conducted multiple glaciovolcanic projects across Antarctica throughout the Antarctic Peninsula in Marie Byrd land Victoria Land and the Transantarctic Mountains including the southernmost volcanoes in the world just 300 km from South Pole. Current research activities are principally in collaboration with geologists of the United States New Zealand and Italian Antarctic Programmes and are focused on reconstructing critical parameters of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet during the past 20 million years.


(0) Smellie, J.L. 2022. Sedimentation associated with glaciovolcanism : a review. In di Capua, A., de Rosa, R., Kereszturi, G., le Pera, E., Rosi, M. and Watt, S. (eds) Volcanic processes in the sedimentary record: When volcanoes meet the environment. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 520,
Smellie, J.L. and Panter, K.S. 2021. Lithofacies and eruptive conditions of the southernmost volcanoes in the world (87° S). Bulletin of Volcanology, 83:49, []
Smellie, J.L., Panter, K.S. and Geyer, A. (eds) In 2021. Volcanism in Antarctica: 200 million years of Subduction, Rifting and Continental Break-Up. Geological Society, London, Memoir, 55, 816 pp.
Smellie, J.L. 2021. Antarctic Peninsula - geology and dynamic development. In: Kleinschmidt, G. (Ed.) Geology of the Antarctic continent. Gebrüder Borntraeger Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart, pp. 18-86.
Smellie, J.L. 2020. The role of volcanism in the making of Antarctica. In Oliva, M. and Ruiz-Fernandez, J. (eds). Past Antarctica. Paleoclimatology & climate change. Academic Press,London, pp. 69-88.
Smellie, J.L. 2018. Glaciovolcanism - a 21st century proxy for palaeo-ice. In Menzies, J. and van der Meer, J.J.M. (eds) Past glacial environments (sediments, forms and techniques), 2nd edition. Elsevier, Amsterdam, Netherlands, pp. 335-375 [available to download at]
Smellie, J.L. and Edwards, B.E. 2016. Glaciovolcanism on Earth & Mars. Products, processes and palaeoenvironmental significance. Cambridge University Press, 483 pp.
Smellie, J.L., Rocchi, S., Wilch, T.I., Gemelli, M., Di Vincenzo, G., McIntosh, W., Dunbar, N., Panter, K. and Fargo, A. 2014. Glaciovolcanic evidence for a polythermal Neogene East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Geology, 42, 39-41.
Smellie, J.L., Wilch, T. and Rocchi, A. 2013. Aa lava-fed deltas: a new reference tool in paleoenvironmental research. Geology, 41, 403-406.
Smellie, J.L., Haywood, A.M., Hillenbrand, C-D., Lunt, D.J. and Valdes, P.J. 2009. Nature of the Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet during the Pliocene: geological evidence & modelling results compared. Earth-Science Reviews, 94, 79-94.



Press and media

Glaciovolcanic eruptions (volcanic eruptions under ice); volcanoes in Antarctica


I serve on the UK National Committee for Antarctic Research (reports directly to the Royal Society (UK)); Editorial Board member for the Bulletin of Volcanology; former Earth Sciences Editor of the journal Antarctic Science; Steering Group member & former Chair of AntVolc the SCAR Expert Group on Antarctic Volcanism []; Steering Group member & former Chair of the IAVCEI/IACS Volcano-Ice Interactions Commission (


I was awarded a Polar Medal for my scientific research by Her Majesty the Queen (UK) and I have Antarctic Service Medals from the American and Italian Antarctic Programmes. Three geographical places in Antarctica are named after me. I have also held an honorary chair at Lancaster University and a Departmental Research Fellowship at Aberystwyth University (both UK).
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