The Yellowstone Caldera

The Yellowstone Caldera is the volcanic caldera located in the United States, The Yellowstone Caldera sometimes referred to as the Yellowstone Supervolcano. The caldera is located in the northwest corner of Wyoming. The major features of the caldera measure about 55 by 72 km).
The caldera formed during the last of three supereruptions over the past 2.1 million years:

  • the Huckleberry Ridge eruption 2.1 million years ago (which created the Island Park Caldera and the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff);
  • the Mesa Falls eruption 1.3 million years ago (which created the Henry’s Fork Caldera and the Mesa Falls Tuff);
  • the Lava Creek eruption approximately 630,000 years ago (which created the Yellowstone Caldera and the Lava Creek Tuff).

3D Model Of Yellowstone Hotspot and Plume

The Yellowstone plume has been tomographically imaged as a tilted body extending from 80 km depth at the Yellowstone Plateau to 660 km depth beneath western Montana. Geodynamic modeling of the plume finds that the plume is up to 120 K hotter than the surrounding mantle, with a maximum of 2.5% melt and a small buoyancy flux of 0.25 MG/s, properties of a cool, weak plume. Mantle flow modeling is used to constrain the evolution of the hotspot: the Yellowstone plume initially ascended vertically through the mantle beneath the thin, accreted lithosphere of the Columbia Plateau and was responsible for the 17 Ma flood basalts there. At 12 Ma, the plume passed beneath the thicker North American lithosphere and became entrained in eastward upper mantle return flow, resulting in a shift of volcanic activity to the southeast and the onset of rhyolitic eruptions caused by melting in the lithosphere. As the North America plate moved southwest, hotspot volcanism propagated northeast, and the resulting tectonic and magmatic interactions produced the 700-km-long Yellowstone-Snake River Plain magmatic system.


University of Utah Seismology and Active Tectonics Research Group