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The Quaternary and Pliocene Yellowstone Plateau volcanic field of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana

November 1, 2001

This region of Yellowstone National Park has been the active focus of one of the Earth's largest magmatic systems for more than 2 million years. The resulting volcanism has been characterized by the eruption of voluminous rhyolites and subordinate basalts but virtually no lavas of intermediate composition. The magmatic system at depth remains active and drives the massive hydrothermal circulation for which the park is widely known. Studies of the volcanic field using geologic mapping and petrology have defined three major cycles of rhyolitic volcanism, each climaxed by the eruption of a rhyolitic ash-flow sheet having a volume of hundreds of thousands of cubic kilometers. The field also has been analyzed in terms of its magmatic and tectonic evolution, including its regional relation to the Snake River plain and to basin-range tectonic extension.

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