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Thomas R. Walter, Ph.D.

Volcanology - Structural Geology - Geophysics
Head of the volcano-tectonics and -hazards workgroup, 
Head of the ERC group Volcapse
Principal investigator of national and international projects
Lecturer (Priv.-Doz.) at University Potsdam

Staff scientist at GFZ Potsdam 
Geophysics Department,
Section 2.1: Physics of Earthquakes and Volcanoes
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences
Link to institutional website


My interest is related to the observation and modelling of volcano vents. How do craters, fissures and domes develop? I study volcano-earthquake geomorphology, deformation processes and structural evolution of the landscape. Further interests include the activity of geysers and hydrothermalism, as well as the mechanics and propagation of ruptures. I focus my studies on interacting processes, such as volcano-earthquake interactions, or the relationship between flank motion and magmatism or fluid ascent.

2012 Privatdozent University Potsdam
2011 Habilitation University Potsdam (Prof. J. Zschau)
2002 PhD University Kiel (Profs. H.-U. Schmincke, M. Hort)
1999 MSc University Freiburg im Brsg. (Profs. D. Grujic & J. Behrmann) and Institute for Technical Optics Stuttgart (Prof. H. Tiziani)

2011 - now Research group leader at GFZ
2009 - now Staff scientist at the GFZ
2005 – 2010 Emmy Noether Young investigator group leader
2003 – 2005 Visiting researcher at InSAR Labs, University of Miami, USA
2002 – 2003 Postdoctoral research at GEOMAR, Kiel. FRG
1999 – 2002 PhD student at the University Kiel, FRG
1993 – 1999 MSc in Geology, Structure and Tectonics Group, Univ. Freiburg, FRG and Institute for technical optics (ITO) Stuttgart

A complete list of publications you may find at :
the GFZ library pages
or at Google scholar
or at Research Gate
or at Loop
These sites are updated automatically, and I assume they are more or less complete.

2015 ERC Consolidator
2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015, 2016 Science photography awards.  
2007 HGF Initiative and Networking Fund for early-stage researchers, Germany
2007 Most cited author award Elsevier
2006 Hans – Cloos – Price of the German Geological Union
2005 Emmy-Noether Award, German Science Foundation
2002 Dissertation with „summa cum laude“ University Kiel

Thomas Walter


One of my specialities is the structural analysis at volcanoes and fault interactions. See my Emmy Noether group

Thomas Walter

Explosive volcanism

Using computer vision and radar techniques we study volcano summits in unprecedented resolution. See my ERC group.

Thomas Walter


Displacements measured by in-situ and remote sensing techniques allow studying the physics and application of new modelling tools.

Thomas Walter


Volcanoes are multi-hazards, including eruptions, earthquakes, landslides. This we monitor and model at sites worldwide. 

Thomas Walter


If you have strong interests in volcanoes and computing, and seek new challenges, please contact me and we find a project for you!


Project planning

Project planning rarely happens at my desk.
If not doing science, I am on or in the water!

Research field examples

Main Research Themes are related to
volcano crater and caldera evolution, lava dome extrusion, magma plumbing, flank instability, and interactions with earthquakes. 

Spreading and rift zones
volcano instability, gravitational spreading and rift zones are often going hand in hand. This relationship, from forceful dike intrusion to lateral volcano widening, stress redistribution within the edifice, and activation of basal decollement faults, are investigated in the field, in analog experiments and using numerical models (mainly boundary element modelling). .

Selected publications:
Müller, Walter et al. (2017) TLS and UAV at the Holuhraun Site. Front. Earth Sci., 27 July 2017.
Witt & Walter (2017) Video monitoring reveals pulsating vents at Kilauea. JVGR.
Musiol et al. (2016): Flexure and spreading of Olympus Mons. JGR. 
Kervyn et al. (2014): Directional flank spreading at Mount Cameroon. JGR.
Le Corvec et al. (2014): Interplay between rift intrusion and flank instability. JGR.
Amelung et al. (2007): Stress control of deep rift intrusion at Hawaii. Science.
Le Corvec & Walter (2009): Volcano spreading and fault interaction. JVGR
Walter et al. (2006): Gravitational spreading and formation of new rift zones. Terra Nova.
Walter et al. (2005): Rift zone reorganization through flank instability. Bull Volc.

Klügel et al. (2005): Gravitational spreading causes en-echelon diking . Bull Volc.
Walter & Troll (2003): Rift zone formation in unstable volcanic edifices. JVGR.

Walter & Schmincke (2002): Rifting, recurrent landsliding and structural reorganization. IJES.

Volcano crater and caldera evolution
Craters develop at different dimensions, are associated with large eruptions (forming explosion craters or even collapse calderas) and sometimes occur without any visible eruption. I study the link between craters and their surrounding, and how craters shape and govern paths of fluids after formation.

Selected publications:
Holohan et al. (2017): Host-rock Fracturing on Elastic-deformation Source Models. Sci Rep.
Dalfsen et al. (2017)
Nested crater of Láscar.  JVGR
Gudmundsson et al. (2016): Gradual caldera collapse at Bardarbunga volcano. Science.

Bathke et al. (2015) Insights into the active caldera ring-fault at Tendürek. EPSL.
Pantaleo & Walter (2014) The ring-shaped thermal field at Stefanos crater, Nisyros Island. Solid E.
Holohan et al. (2013) Oblique-slip faulting during caldera subsidence. JGR.
Burchardt & Walter (2010) Interaction of caldera ring faults at Miyakejima. Bull Volc.

Lava dome extrusion
the formation of lava domes is associated with significant landscape change and the source of some of the major volcanic hazards. I study how domes develop, monitored by remote sensing and photogrammetry techniques, in the field or aboard of satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles. 

Selected publications:
Salzer et al. (2017): Deformation, topography and surface temperature at volcanic domes. EPSL.
Salzer et al. (2016): Dome dynamics at Mount St. Helens. JGR.
Walter et al. (2015) Volcano-tectonic control of Merapi’s lava dome. Tectonophys.
Walter et al. (2013) Dome growth and coulee spreading controlled by surface morphology. JVGR.
Walter TR et al. (2013) Thermal image correlation show episodic dome growth. JGR.
Belousov et al. (2005) Failures on domes and stratovolcanoes situated on faults. Bull Volc.

Magma plumbing
includes the plugs, sills and dikes and their connection to the surface. One of the most fundamental principles in physical volcanology is only barely understood, namely how magma chambers develop and how dikes intrude and interact. These i approach by geodetic data analysis (InSAR, GPS) as well as by extensive modelling.

Selected publications:
Maccaferri et al. (2017): The effect of giant lateral collapses on magma pathways. Nature Comm. 
Nikkhoo, Walter et al. (2017): CDMs for volcano deformation analyses. GJI.
Le Corvec & Walter (2009) Volcano interaction with dike intrusion. JVGR. 
Walter (2008) Dyke intrusions into ring-faults. ISBN: 978-0-444-53165-0.
Amelung et al. (2007) Stress control of deep rift intrusion. Science.

Volcano-Earthquake interactions
eruptions are going hand in hand with earthquakes. But occasionally also earthquakes trigger remote volcanoes, or volcanic activity causes tectonic failure and increases earthquake hazards. This is what i studied at places around the Pacific Rim of Fire, but also on Ocean Islands. 

Selected publications:
Namiki et al. (2016): Sloshing of a bubbly magma reservoir. JVGR.
Walter et al. (2009) Eruptions at three volcanoes in southern Italy. Geology
Eggert & Walter (2009) Volcanic activity before and after large earthquakes. Tectonophysics.
Walter et al. (2008) Amplified ground shaking at volcanoes. G-cubed.
Walter (2007) Stress triggering at Karymsky. EPSL.  
Walter & Amelung (2007) Volcanic eruptions following M9 megathrust earthquakes. Geology. 
Walter et al. (2007) Static and dynamic stress triggering at Merapi. GRL.
Walter & Amelung (2006) Volcano-earthquake interaction at Hawaii. JGR.

are studied using InSAR, GPS and photogrammetric methods, either under lab conditions or for selected events. Special interest is complexity in fault trends and interactions with volcanoes.

Selected publications:
Nikolaeva & Walter (2016) InSAR observations of the 2009 Racha earthquake, Georgia. NHESS
Diao & Walter et al (2016) Fault locking near Istanbul from InSAR and GPS observations. GJI.
Diao & Walter et al (2015) The 2015 Gorkha earthquake: slip and stress modeling. Front. E. Sci.
Tu et al. (2014) Net-based baseline correction at the Tohoku earthquake. GJI.
Wang et al. (2013)
The Tohoku Earthquake: Comparison of GPS and Strong-Motion Data. BSSA.
Shirzaei et al. (2012) Response of forearc crustal faults to megathrust earthquake. EPSL. 

For students and potential collaborators

If you have strong interests in volcanoes and computing, and seek new challenges, please contact me and we find a project for you!
I am adjoint faculty with habilitation at the University Potsdam and eligible to supervise your master's or doctoral thesis in geology, geophysics or remote sensing.

Contact address

Department 2: Geophysics
GFZ Potsdam, Telegrafenberg
14473 Potsdam, Germany
ph: +49 (0)331 288 1253