Yellowstone Volcano

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Yellowstone National Park is located in the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. It is a popular park because it is home to over 10,000 features, several mountain ridges, headwater of 3 major western river system (?, 2015). Nevertheless, to say that is a beautiful place to visit, millions of visitors are unaware that they are standing in the largest, most explosive volcanoes ever to exist. It is important for people to be informed of the geologic aspects and the effects of the Yellowstone volcano.

Geologic aspects

Tectonic setting

The tectonic setting of the Yellowstone volcano sits atop of a continental hotspot. While North America plates moved west they slowly moved over the hotspot that is now below Yellowstone [IJ1](Volcano World, n.d).


The Yellowstone volcano has not erupted recently it is considered to be active. Although Yellowstone volcano is active, it is unlikely to erupt in the next thousand or even 10,000 years (Yellowstone Volcano, n.d). Such activities as ground motion, earthquakes, and hydrothermal activities are proof that the volcano is active (Lowenstern, Christianse, Smith, Morgan, and Heasler, 2005). It is estimated that about 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes occur under Yellowstone each year (?, 2015).


Most of Yellowstone volcano eruptions has produced giant volcanic eruptions (Lowenstern, Christianse, Smith, Morgan, and Heasler, 2005). When eruptions take place the common magma present is silicic. Much of the composition of Yellowstone volcano lava is composed of rhyolite and basalt (An Overview of Yellowstone, n.d). To be precise, about 30 eruptions of rhyolitic lava moved around/ flew while other flows contained rhyolite and basalt that were expelled outside the caldera (Lowenstern, Christianse, Smith, Morgan, and Heasler, 2005). Considering the Yellowstone volcano is active, there has been non explosive eruptions. Some eruptions that have occurred about 27 of them rhyolite lava flew in the caldera, 13 rhyolite lavas flew outside the caldera and 40 basalt vents outside the caldera [IJ2](USGS, n.d).

Type of volcano

The Yellowstone volcano is a volcanic caldera and supervolcano(). [IJ3]Since it's a supervolcano it is capable of exploding more than 240 cubic miles of magma (Yellowstone Volcano, n.d).

How often it erupts

Since the first to the last eruption of the Yellowstone volcano, we can calculate that the eruptions were separated in time by several tens of thousands of years. To be precise, the recurrence interval is about 6000,000 to 800,000 years (USGS, n.d). Based in Yellowstone past eruptions, the probability of another caldera- forming eruption is only 0.00014% (Volcano, n.d.). Although scientist don't know when will Yellowstone volcano will erupt again, scientist from Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) observe an array of monitor [IJ4]in the region. These monitors are fit to detect any sudden or strong movement of shifts in the area that could indicate activity in the Yellowstone volcano (Yellowstone Volcano, n.d).


From the past eruptions, there was not information of any precursors to those eruptions. However, now there are precursors to eruptions in the Yellowstone volcano. The precursors include strong earthquakes swarms and rapid ground deformation (Yellowstone Volcano, n.d). Also, ground movement can be a precursor to magma moving towards the surface (USGS, n.d). Good news is that due to these precursors, the eruptions will not occur right away, it will typically take days to weeks before the eruption (Yellowstone Volcano, n.d).

Description of eruptions

From the history of the three-enormous caldera forming eruption that took place 2.1 million and 640,000 years ago, tiny particles of volcanic debris were presented in which it covered much of the western half of North America (Volcano, n.d.). At first when the eruptions occurred immense volumes of magma erupted at the surface and into the atmosphere as a variety of volcanic red-got pumice, volcanic ash, and gas spread as pyroclastic flows flew everywhere (Lowenstern, Christianse, Smith, Morgan, and Heasler, 2005). As the wind carried sulfur aerosol and ash particles around the Earth it might of have cause a decrease in temperatures around the globe (). Not to mention that the effect of the rapid withdrawals of the large volumes of magma below the Earth's surface caused the ground to collapse, swallowing mountains and originated calderas (Lowenstern, Christianse, Smith, Morgan, and Heasler, 2005).

Effects on people/ environment

Major eruptions

Yellowstone volcano major eruptions were capable of obscuring parts of North America continent with ash and debris (USGS, n.d). The first major eruption occurred 2.1 million years ago, the eruption was enormous that it was considered one of the five largest eruption on Earth that created caldera more than 60 miles across (Lowenstern, Christianse, Smith, Morgan, and Heasler, 2005). The eruption produced about 600 cubic miles of rock and ash An Overview of Yellowstone, n.d). As a result of the widespread volcanic deposits, it created the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff (Lowenstern, Christianse, Smith, Morgan, and Heasler, 2005). Moreover, the most recent eruption occurred 640,000 years ago. The eruption produced huge volumes of volcanic ash that were blasted into the atmosphere. In addition, it created 35-mile-wide and 50 long Yellowstone calderas (Lowenstern, Christianse, Smith, Morgan, and Heasler, 2005). After the eruption, the ground collapsed into the magma reservoir, creating a caldera 75 km long and 55 km wide (Volcano, n.d). As we can see [IJ5]each of these eruptions created a sizable caldera (USGS, n.d).

Concerns now/ Hazards

A concern that people have is how big an eruption of the Yellowstone volcano would be like. It is believed that the eruption would impact the entire world not just Teton Country. Some hazards include the loss of life's, damage to property, cascading events, long and expensive recovery effort and economic losses (Volcano, n.d.).

Expected for next eruption

Even though there is not a set date of when Yellowstone volcano will erupt, people expect the eruption to be big. If an eruption occurs, it would produce thick ash deposits that would bury a huge area of the United States and injection of huge volumes of volcanic gases that will get high in the atmosphere resulting an effect on global climate (Lowenstern, Christianse, Smith, Morgan, and Heasler, 2005). But others believe that the eruption will be hydrothermal. Even though the eruption would be small it will still be an explosive eruption since it can occur from shallow reservoirs of steam or hot water. This eruption will produce lava flows of either rhyolite or basalt. If it happens to be a rhyolite lava flows, then it incorporates explosive phases that create significant volumes of volcanic ash and pumice (USGS, n.d.).

Current state of the volcano

As on April 2, 2018, the Yellowstone volcano alert level is normal (USGS, n.d).

Warning systems

Most scientist believe that the buildup preceding a catastrophic eruption would be detectable for weeks or even months to years. Being said this, there isn't any information of any warning systems in place. But if there is are any signs of an eruption, the park would communicate accurate and timely information to visitors, employees, surrounding communities, media outlets [IJ6](Yellowstone Volcano, n.d).


In conclusion, Yellowstone volcano is considered to be active even if it hasn't erupted recently. It is important to know that it is one of the largest and most explosive volcanoes on the planet. The eruptions of this volcano have caused damages that we could not see but it is safe to say that we won't see one any time soon. Being informed of the Yellowstone volcano gives a deeper insight of how the Yellowstone National Park came to form.

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Yellowstone Volcano. (2019, Aug 02). Retrieved September 25, 2023 , from

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