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The Yellowstone Plateau volcanic field developed through three volcanic cycles spanning over two million years and including two of the world's largest known eruptions.


Summary

The >2450 km3 (588 mi3) Huckleberry Ridge Tuff erupted about 2.1 million years ago, creating a large, approximately 75 km (47 mi) wide, caldera and thick volcanic deposits. A second cycle concluded with the eruption of the much smaller Mesa Falls Tuff around 1.3 million years ago. Activity subsequently shifted to the present Yellowstone Plateau and culminated 640,000 years ago with the eruption of the >10003km (240 mi3) Lava Creek Tuff and consequent formation of the 45 x 85 km (28 x 53 mi) caldera. Large volumes of rhyolitic lava flows (approximately 600 km3 (144 mi3) were erupted in the caldera between 180,000 and 70,000 years ago, distributed primarily along two north-south alignments of vents. No magmatic eruptions have occurred since then, but large hydrothermal explosions have taken place during the Holocene, including near Yellowstone Lake. Uplift and subsidence of the ground surface is centered on two uplifted regions (the Mallard Lake and Sour Creek resurgent domes). Large earthquakes occur just off the plateau along the nearby Teton and Hebgen Lake faults, the latter of which ruptured in 1959 (Ms = 7.5), causing considerable damage to the region. Yellowstone is presently the site of one of the world's largest hydrothermal systems including Earth's largest concentration of geysers.

News

Date published: September 27, 2021

How and why do we collect sediment cores in Yellowstone Lake?

In August 2021, YVO scientists collected sediment cores from the floor of Yellowstone Lake. Analysis of the sediment composition, as well as the fluids contained within the sediment, can provide new information about hydrothermal activity occurring out of view beneath the lake water.

Date published: September 20, 2021

Taking Yellowstone seismology to the classroom for some “deep learning”

Locating earthquakes in Yellowstone is a time-intensive process that requires the trained eye and extensive experience of a human analyst. But advances in computer algorithms, known as “machine learning” tools, hold promise for automatically locating earthquakes that might otherwise be overlooked, and the dawn of a new age in seismology!

Date published: September 13, 2021

Scientists can now “sniff” Yellowstone gases in real time

Much is known about how the chemical compositions of gases vary across the Yellowstone volcanic system, but how they vary in time has remained largely a mystery.  Our understanding should greatly improve with a recent installation of a station that continuously monitors gases and communicates those data in real time.

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