Clive Oppenheimer on the volcanic offerings of our angry earth
He's faced guns and ducked lava bombs. Clive Oppenheimer talks about the perils of volcanology and how he met film-maker Werner Herzog on a volcano and then made a movie with him.
Clive Oppenheimer has, more than once, been threatened with guns (a Life Scientific first?). He's dodged and ducked lava bombs and he's risked instant death in scorching and explosive eruptions.
He studies volcanoes; science that by necessity, requires his presence at the volcanic hotspots of the world. It was at the lip of a bubbling lava crater on one of the earth's most active volcanoes, Mount Erebus in Antarctica, that he met the film and documentary maker Werner Herzog. The two became friends and went on to make a volcano movie together. Clive, who's Professor of Volcanology at the University of Cambridge, tells Jim academics and film makers share the same complementary skill set: thorough research, slick location recording and a familiarity with rejection as 9 out of 10 film pitches (or grant proposals) are turned down!
As well as a forensic fascination with the dramatic impact of ancient and modern volcanism on the landscape, Clive discusses how multiple scientific disciplines are now needed to understand the complex historical, archaeological, climatological and environmental impacts of the earth's volcanic eruptions. He wades into the bitter academic row about what did it for the dinosaurs 65 million years ago: meteorite or volcanism? And he details the importance of Mount Pinatubo's 1991 eruption in the Philippines for our deeper understanding of anthropogenic climate change.
Producer: Fiona Hill