Home

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: January 11, 2021

Insights into the eruptions of Steamboat Geyser

The tallest active geyser in the world has been erupting at a record pace since March 2018. Why are eruptions so energetic, what influences the intervals between eruptions, and why did Steamboat reactivate in the first place?

Date published: January 4, 2021

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory year in review—what happened in 2020?

Although 2020 may not have been a great year for many of us, it was a pretty interesting year in Yellowstone.  With this first Yellowstone Caldera Chronicles article of the new year, let’s take the traditional look back at what happened in Yellowstone during the previous 12 months,

Date published: December 28, 2020

Hydrothermal explosions hidden beneath Yellowstone Lake’s serene waters

Although Yellowstone Lake itself may seem calm, the floor of the lake is littered with hydrothermal explosion craters.  Detailed studies are beginning to reveal the details of these explosions, like the one that formed Elliott’s Crater about 8000 years ago.

Find a U.S. Volcano