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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: October 25, 2021

How much heat is emitted by hydrothermal areas on the floor of Yellowstone Lake?

Measuring the heat output of a hydrothermal area is not easy—Earth’s surface is often too noisy for accurate measurements to be made easily.  But the floor of Yellowstone Lake is a thermally quiet environment and provides a unique opportunity to assess heat flow in one of Yellowstone’s most dynamic hydrothermal areas.

Date published: October 18, 2021

Temperature Loggers Shed Light on Past and Future Yellowstone Geyser Activity

Selected hydrothermal features at Yellowstone National Park have data loggers that capture geyser eruption times. A systematic analysis of these data can reveal variations in geyser activity over time and between different geyser basins.

Date published: October 11, 2021

Henrys Fork Caldera: A glimpse into one possible future for Yellowstone

What will happen to Yellowstone once its rhyolite magma system shuts down? To understand the future, geologists look to the past—in this case, to Yellowstone Caldera’s older but smaller sibling, Henrys Fork Caldera!

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