Rosie Lewis

Rosie Lewis


I am a 1st Year PhD researcher in Volcanology, based at the Institute of Geophysics and Tectonics, University of Leeds. I use atmospheric geochemistry to assess the health risk of long-term exposure to volcanic air pollution to communities living on Montserrat, Eastern Caribbean. I am particularly interested in two key components of volcanic emissions: sulphur dioxide and particulate matter (PM). During an upcoming fieldwork campaign, I will install a network of low-cost and reference-grade sensors to provide the first assessment of the concentrations and dispersion air pollution on Montserrat.

I am particularly interested in outreach, with community engagement forming a key part of my project. I am currently leading a team of PGRs in collaboration with a visual science artist for an exhibition at the Natural History Museum, following the annual Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group conference in January 2023.

Research interests

Whilst large, explosive eruptions attract public interest in volcanism, chronic, invisible hazards such as long-term exposures to toxic volcanic gases often remain unnoticed, understudied and thus unaccounted for.

The Montserrat government has expressed concerns that its citizens and visitors are chronically exposed to volcanic air pollutants as the Soufrière Hills volcano continues to degas, despite not having erupted ash since 2011. The gas plume typically follows the trade winds westward into the abandoned capital of Plymouth, but residents report odours of sulphurous gases in the north of the island with changes in the wind direction. Measurements taken by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) indicate that the volcano is emitting ~ 350 tonnes per day of sulphur dioxide (SO2) with recent spikes reaching up to 1000 tonnes per day. No particulate air quality assessment has been conducted on island for many years and ongoing SO2 diffusion tube monitoring efforts are not sensitive to real-time fluctuations. It is currently unknown whether airborne volcanic pollutants – in particular SO2 and particulate matter (PM), including ash and sulphate aerosol - could be present in concentrations, durations or frequencies of concern to the health of the Montserrat population.

Research aim:

  • To conduct a detailed health hazard assessment of the concentrations, compositions and spatiotemporal dispersion of volcanic air pollution on Montserrat to advise local agencies on human health risks and the potential need to install an operational network of air pollution sensors.

Research Questions:

  • How do SO2 and PM concentrations vary spatially and temporally on Montserrat?
  • How does the geochemical composition of PM affect health risk?
  • How can past and present air pollution data be used to inform current and future health risk?


  • BSc Geography, University of Manchester.
  • MPhil Holocene Climates, University of Cambridge

Research groups and institutes

  • Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science
  • Institute of Geophysics and Tectonics