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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: August 10, 2020

Tree rings record spikes in magmatic CO2 emissions at Yellowstone

Volcanologists have a variety of ways of measuring present-day gas emissions from volcanoes.  But what about gas emissions that happened in years past, before measurements were possible?  For these periods, it turns out that you can actually read the signature of gas emissions in tree rings!

Date published: August 3, 2020

The geology of a Yellowstone jewel: Hayden Valley

Hayden Valley is a gorgeous expanse of grassland and meadows located right in the center of Yellowstone National Park.  It is a haven for wildlife and a popular spot for viewing some of Yellowstone’s most iconic animals.  But why does this meadow exist in the midst of what is otherwise a high-altitude forest of lodgepole pine trees?  The area’s geology holds the key

Date published: July 27, 2020

Photography and 3-dimensional data help to better understand Yellowstone National Park’s thermal features

Yellowstone’s thermal features, like geysers and mud pots, are delicate and dangerous. So how can scientists get a close-up view of these structures to monitor their changes through time? It turns out that photography holds the key. In fact, with a series of well-aimed and calibrated photos, it is possible to construct three-dimensional models of Yellowstone’s most famous geyser cones!

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