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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: May 10, 2021

A do-it-yourself guide for estimating the height of geyser eruptions

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory scientists investigate many aspects of the Yellowstone volcanic system, including the incredible geysers that are a highlight of any visit to the park. After witnessing a geyser eruption, many visitors begin to wonder about some aspects of these incredible phenomena.  One question --“how tall was that?” -- can be answered by anybody with a few simple tools.

Date published: May 3, 2021

The 2020 Yellowstone Volcano Observatory annual report is now available!

Interested in knowing more about Yellowstone geyser, seismic and deformation activity in 2020?  And the results of research conducted by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory?  Look no further—the 2020 Yellowstone Volcano Observatory annual report is now online!

Date published: April 26, 2021

The spectacular columns of Sheepeater Cliffs

A small side road on the highway between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction leads to Sheepeater Cliffs, a spectacular example of columnar jointing in a lava flow.

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