Eric Grosfils

Minnie B. Cairns Memorial Professor of Geology
  • Expertise


    Eric Grosfils’ NASA-funded planetary geology research investigates many different types of volcanic features on Earth, Venus and Mars. Most recently he has focused on the mechanics of magma reservoir failure and related processes, i.e. the behavior of volcanic plumbing systems and how they are linked to eruptions and the formation of volcanic features we can see at the surface. This focus is motivated in part by a desire to improve our understanding of volcanic hazards, but as a planetary geologist, he is also seeking to learn more about the complex evolution of different planets in our solar system. His studies, which integrate numerical modeling, GIS, satellite image analysis, and occasionally some fieldwork, are often conducted with undergraduates and/or in close collaboration with colleagues from other institutions.

    As a physical volcanologist, his goal is to improve our understanding of the mechanics of shallow magma storage and migration in order to better understand the conditions associated with some of the largest eruptions (and intrusive events) that occur on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system.

    Research Interests

    • Unraveling the interplay between shallow magma reservoir failure and the formation of volcanoes on Earth, Venus and other solar system bodies.
    • Evaluating the mechanics of ring fault and caldera formation.
    • Construction of a global map of extensional lineaments on Venus in order to gain insight into giant radiating dike swarm formation.
    • Exploring the pedagogy of computational science, a field which integrates computing, mathematics and science in order to explore interesting research-like questions in the classroom.

    Areas of Expertise

    • Physical Volcanology
    • Planetary Geology
    • Finite Element Modeling
    • Geology of Venus
    • Geology of Mars
    • Remote Sensing
    • GIS (Geographic Information Systems)
  • Work


    * indicates Student Author

    Cabaniss, H.E., P.M. Gregg, and E.B. Grosfils, The role of tectonic stress in triggering large silicic caldera eruptions, Geophysical Research Letters, 45, 2018.

    Chiasera, B., T.O. Rooney, G. Girard, G. Yirgu, E. Grosfils, D. Ayelew, P. Mohr, J. Zimbelman, and M. Ramsey, Magmatically assisted off-rift extension, Geosphere, 2018.

    Grosfils, E.B., P.J. McGovern, P.M. Gregg, G.A. Galgana, D.M. Hurwitz*, S.M. Long*, and S.R. Chestler*, Elastic models of magma reservoir mechanics: A key tool for investigating planetary volcanism, in Massironi, M., P. Byrne, H. Hiesinger, and T. Platz (eds) Volcanism and Tectonism Across the Solar System. Geological Society of London Special Publications, 401, doi:10.1144/SP401.2, 2015.

    McGovern, P.J., E.B. Grosfils, G.A. Galgana, J.K. Morgan, M.E. Rumpf, J.R. Smith, and J.R. Zimbelman, Lithospheric flexure and volcano basal boundary conditions: Keys to the structural evolution of large volcanic edifices on the terrestrial planets, in Massironi, M., P. Byrne, H. Hiesinger, and T. Platz (eds) Volcanism and Tectonism Across the Solar System. Geological Society of London Special Publications, 401, doi:10.1144/SP401.7, 2015.

    Chestler*, S.R., and E.B. Grosfils, Using numerical modeling to explore the origin of intrusion patterns on Fernandina volcano, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Geophysical Research Letters, 40, 4565-4569, 2013.

    Gregg, P.M., S.L. de Silva, E.B. Grosfils, and J.P. Parmigiani, Catastrophic caldera-forming eruptions: Thermomechanics and implications for eruption triggering and maximum caldera dimensions on Earth, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 241-242, 1-12, 2012.

    Hurwitz*, D.M., S.M. Long*, E.B. Grosfils, The characteristics of magma reservoir failure beneath a volcanic edifice, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 188, 379-394, 2009.

    Long*, S.M., and E.B. Grosfils, Modeling the effect of layered volcanic material on magma reservoir failure and associated deformation, with application to Long Valley caldera, California, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 186, 349-360, 2009.

    Grosfils, E.B., Magma reservoir failure on the terrestrial planets: Assessing the importance of gravitational loading in simple elastic models, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 166, 47-75, 2007.

    Grosfils, E.B., R.A. Schultz, and G. Kroeger, Geophysical exploration within northern Devils Lane graben, Canyonlands National Park, Utah: implications for sediment thickness and tectonic evolution, Journal of Structural Geology, 25, 455-467, 2003.

    Ernst, R.E., E.B. Grosfils, and D. Mege, Giant dike swarms: Earth, Venus and Mars, Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 29, 489-534, 2001.

    Grosfils, E.B., and J.W. Head, The timing of giant radiating dike swarm emplacement on Venus: Implications for resurfacing of the planet and its subsequent evolution, Journal of Geophysical Research—Planets, 101, 4645-4656, 1996.

    A full list of publications.

  • Education


    Brown University

    Master of Science
    Brown University

    Bachelor of Science
    College of William and Mary

    Recent Courses Taught

    • Introduction to Geology: Planetary Geology
    • Remote Sensing of the Earth¹s Environment
    • Introduction to Geophysics (w/lab)
    • Physical Volcanology (w/lab)
  • Awards & Honors

    Awards & Honors

    Appointed to Minnie B. Cairns Memorial Chair of Geology, Pomona College, 2011.

    Fellow, Geological Society of America, 2010.

    Fulbright US Senior Scholar, University of Auckland, New Zealand, 2009.

    NAGT Distinguished Speaker for 2006-2009.

    Biggs Award for Excellence in Earth Science Teaching., Geological Society of America, 2001.

    NASA-ASEE Summer Faculty Fellowship (Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter), Goddard Space Flight Center, 1999.

    Short-term Visitor, Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1998.

    NASA-ASEE Summer Faculty Fellowship (Airborne Visible and Infrared Imaging Spectrometer), Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1998.

    National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, 1990-1993

    Competitive research grant funding, received persistently since 2000, obtained primarily from NASA, NSF and the Keck Foundation.