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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: March 1, 2021

Sanidine: Nature’s record of Yellowstone’s dynamic past

Geologists look for big things in small packages.  In Yellowstone, information about some of the biggest volcanic eruptions are hidden in the smallest crystals!

Date published: February 22, 2021

What Did Yellowstone Look Like Before the Yellowstone Hot Spot?

We know Yellowstone today as the site of a huge caldera that erupted 631,000 years ago and covered the region in a thick layer of ash. But what was present before the caldera?

Date published: February 15, 2021

The other volcanic range in the Yellowstone region: The Absarokas!

Yellowstone Volcano receives ample attention for being a large, active, caldera-forming volcanic system. Given the massive eruptions over the last 2.1 million years, our focus on Yellowstone is understandable. However, hidden in its metaphorical shadow is another volcanic complex – the Absaroka Volcanoes.

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