Alexa Van Eaton, PhD


My work focuses on the dynamics of explosive eruptions—especially volcanic plumes and pyroclastic density currents. I take a field-based approach to reconstructing the processes recorded in volcanic deposits. I also try to bring together diverse techniques (textural analysis, geophysics, remote sensing, modeling) to tackle a range of interesting problems in physical volcanology.

Some current projects include:

  • Volcanic lightning as a monitoring tool to investigate eruption dynamics and hazards
  • Textural and modeling studies of ash aggregation, and impacts on the lifetime of volcanic clouds
  • Stratigraphy of eruptive processes at Cascades volcanoes, including Mount St. Helens and Glacier Peak
  • Satellite detection of umbrella cloud growth to determine mass eruption rates
  • Numerical modeling of volcanic plume dynamics, atmospheric transport, and fallout

I'm currently co-leader of the IAVCEI Commission on Tephra Hazard Modeling

Personal webpage



Since 2017    Research Geologist, USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory

2015-2017    USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellow

2013-2015    NSF Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow (link to award abstract)

2007-2012    Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, Ph.D., Geology (link to dissertation)

2002-2006    University of Florida, Gainesville, B.S. summa cum laude, Geology with English minor



IAVCEI George Walker Medal, 2017

John Gamble Award in Geology, 2011, Victoria University of Wellington

New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarship (2007-2010)


Publications (Google Scholar for updates)


KA Hargie, AR Van Eaton, LG Mastin, RH Holzworth, JW Ewert, M Pavolonis (In Press). Globally detected volcanic lightning and umbrella dynamics during the 2014 eruption of Kelud, Indonesia, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Reserach, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2018.10.016.

R Grapenthin, S Hreinsdóttir, AR Van Eaton (In Press). Volcanic hail detected with GPS: The 2011 eruption of Grímsvötn volcano, Iceland, Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1029/2018gl080317.

MM Haney, AR Van Eaton, JJ Lyons, RL Kramer, D Fee, AM Iezzi (2018). Volcanic thunder from explosive eruptions at Bogoslof volcano, Alaska, Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1002/2017GL076911.

CM Smith, AR Van Eaton, S Charbonnier, SR McNutt, SA Behnke, RJ Thomas, HE Edens, G Thompson (2018). Correlating the electrification of volcanic plumes with ashfall textures at Sakurajima Volcano, Japan, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2018.03.052.

SA Behnke, HE Edens, RJ Thomas, CM Smith, SR McNutt, AR Van Eaton, C Cimarelli, V Cigala (2018). Investigating the origin of continual radio frequency impulses during explosive volcanic eruptions, Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, doi: 10.1002/2017JD027990.

AN Seligman, I Bindeman, AR Van Eaton, R Hoblitt (2018). Isotopic insights into the degassing and secondary hydration of volcanic glass from the 1980 eruptions of Mount St. Helens, Bulletin of Volcanology, doi: 10.1007/s00445-018-1212-6.



D Fee, MM Haney, RS Matoza, AR Van Eaton, P Cervelli, DJ Schneider (2017). Volcanic tremor and plume height hysteresis from Pavlof Volcano, Alaska. Science, doi: 10.1126/science.aah6108.

NW Dunbar, NA Iverson, AR Van Eaton, M Sigl, BV Alloway, AV Kurbatov, LG Mastin, JR McConnell & CJN Wilson (2017) New Zealand supereruption provides time marker for the Last Glacial Maximum in Antarctica, Nature Scientific Reports, doi: 10.1038/s41598-017 11758-0

JS Pallister, MA Clynne, HM Wright, AR Van Eaton, JW Vallance, DR Sherrod, BP Kokelaar. IAVCEI field trip guide to Mount St. Helens—An overview of the eruptive history and petrology, tephra deposits, 1980 pyroclastic deposits and the crater. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper (Accepted).

RB Waitt, JJ Major, RP Hoblitt, AR Van Eaton. Mount St. Helens—Recent and ancient volcaniclastic processes and deposits, IAVCEI field trip guide. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper (Accepted).



AR Van Eaton, À Amigo, D Bertin, LG Mastin, RE Giacosa, J González, O Valderrama, K Fontijn, SA Behnke (2016). Volcanic lightning and plume dynamics reveal evolving hazards during the April 2015 eruption of Calbuco volcano, Chile. Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1002/2016GL068076.

LG Mastin, AR Van Eaton, AJ Durant (2016). Adjusting particle-size distributions to account for aggregation in tephra-deposit model forecasts. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, doi: 10.5194/acp-2016-54.

JD Muirhead, AR Van Eaton, G Re, JDL White, MH Ort (2016). Monogenetic volcanoes fed by interconnected dikes and sills in the Hopi Buttes volcanic field, Navajo Nation, USA. Bulletin of Volcanology, doi: 10.1007/s00445-016-1005-8.

YJ Suzuki, A Costa, M Cerminara, T Esposti Ongaro, M Herzog, AR Van Eaton, LC Denby (2016). Inter-comparison of three-dimensional models of volcanic plumes. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2016.06.011.

A Costa, YJ Suzuki, M Cerminara, BJ Devenish, T Esposti Ongaro, M Herzog, AR Van Eaton, LC Denby, M Bursik, M de’MichieliVitturi, S Engwell, A Neri, S Barsotti, A Folch, G Macedonio, F Girault, G Carazzo, S Tait, E Kaminski, LG Mastin, MJ Woodhouse, JC Phillips, AJ Hogg, W Degruyter, C Bonadonna (2016). Results of the eruptive column model inter-comparison study. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2016.01.017.



Van Eaton AR, Mastin LG, Herzog M, Schwaiger HF, Schneider DJ, Wallace KLW and Clarke AB (2015). Hail formation triggers rapid ash aggregation in volcanic plumes. Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms8860. 

Harper MA, Pledger SA, Smith EGC, Van Eaton AR and Wilson CJN (2015). Eruptive and environmental processes recorded by diatoms in volcanically dispersed lake sediments from the Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. Journal of Paleolimnology, doi: 10.1007/s10933-015-9851-5. 

Houghton BF, White JDL and Van Eaton AR (2015). Phreatomagmatic and Related Eruption Styles, In BF Houghton, H Rymer, J Stix and S McNutt (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, 2nd Ed., pp. 537-532, doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-385938-9.00030-4. 


Before 2015

Mastin LG, Van Eaton AR and Lowenstern J (2014). Modeling ash fall distribution from a Yellowstone supereruption. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, doi: 10.1002/2014GC005469.

Van Eaton AR, Harper M and Wilson CJN (2013). High-flying diatoms: Widely dispersed microorganisms from an explosive volcanic eruption. Geology 41, 1187-1190.

Van Eaton AR and Wilson CJN (2013) Nature, origins and distribution of ash aggregation processes in a large-scale wet eruption. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 250, 129-154, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2012.10.016.

Van Eaton AR, Herzog M, Wilson CJN and McGregor J (2012) Ascent dynamics of large phreatomagmatic eruption clouds: The role of microphysics. Journal of Geophysical Research 117, B03203, doi: 10.1029/2011JB008892.

Van Eaton AR, Muirhead JD, Wilson CJN and Cimarelli C (2012) Growth of volcanic ash aggregates in the presence of liquid water and ice: An experimental approach. Bulletin of Volcanology 74, 1963-1984, doi: 10.1007/s00445-012-0634-9.

Van Eaton AR, Zimmerman AR, Jaeger JM, Brenner M, Kenney WF and Schmid JR (2010) A novel application of radionuclides for dating sediment cores from sandy, anthropogenically disturbed estuaries. Marine and Freshwater Research 6, 1268-1277, doi: 10.1071/MF10028.