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What is a Super Volcano?

The term "supervolcano" implies a volcanic center that has had an eruption of magnitude 8 on the Volcano Explosivity Index (VEI), meaning the measured deposits for that eruption is greater than 1,000 cubic kilometers (240 cubic miles). The VEI scale was created as a general measurement of the explosivity of an eruption.

There are multiple characteristics used to give an eruption its VEI allowing for the classification of current and historic eruptions Volume of ejecta (ash, pumice, lava) Column height ( an eruption column consists of hot volcanic ash emitted during an explosive volcanic eruption, the ash forms a column rising many kilometetres into the air above the peak of the volcano.)

History of Yellowstone National Parks Super Volcano

The Yellowstone Caldera is the volcanic caldera and super-volcano located in Yellowstone National Park. The caldera is located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, in which the vast majority of the park is contained. The caldera measures about 34 by 45 miles. The caldera formed during the last of three super eruptions over the last 2.1 million years. Huckleberry Ridge eruption 2.1 million years ago, which created the Island Park Caldera and the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff. Mesa Falls eruption 1.3 million years ago, which created the Henry's Fork Caldera and the Mesa Falls Tuff Lava Creek eruption 640,000 years ago, which created the Yellowstone Caldera and the Lava Creek Tuff.

History Continued
The caldera lies over a hotspot where light, hot, molten rock from the mantle rises toward the surface. While the Yellowstone hotspot is now under the Yellowstone Plateau, it previously helped create the eastern Snake River Plain (to the west of Yellowstone) through a series of huge volcanic eruptions. The hotspot appears to move across terrain in the east-northeast direction, but in fact the hotspot is much deeper than terrain and remains stationary while the North American Plate moves west-southwest over it. Over the past 18 million years or so, this hotspot has generated a succession of violent eruptions and less violent floods of basaltic lava. Together these eruptions have helped create the eastern part of the Snake River Plain from a once-mountainous region

Beginning in 2004, scientists saw the ground above the caldera rise upward at rates as high as 2.8 inches a year. The rate slowed between 2007 and 2010 to a centimeter a year or less. Still, since the start of the swelling, ground levels over the volcano have been raised by as much as 10 inches in places. "It's an extraordinary uplift, because it covers such a large area and the rates are so high," said the University of Utah's Bob Smith, a longtime expert in Yellowstone's volcanism. Scientists think a swelling magma reservoir four to six miles (seven to ten kilometers) below the surface is driving the uplift. "At the beginning we were concerned it could be leading up to an eruption," said Smith, who co-authored a paper on the surge published in the December 3, 2010, edition of Geophysical Research Letters.

Theories Continued
Smith and colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Yellowstone Volcano Observatory have been mapping the caldera's rise and fall using tools such as global positioning systems (GPS) and interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), which gives ground-deformation measurements. Ground deformation can suggest that magma is moving toward the surface before an eruption: The flanks of Mount St. Helens, for example, swelled dramatically in the months before its 1980 explosion.

Theories Continued
According to current theory, Yellowstone's magma reservoir is fed by a plume of hot rock surging upward from Earth's mantle. When the amount of magma flowing into the chamber increases, the reservoir swells like a lung and the surface above expands upward. Models suggest that during the recent uplift, the reservoir was filling with 0.02 cubic miles (0.1 cubic kilometer) of magma a year. When the rate of increase slows, the theory goes, the magma likely moves off horizontally to solidify and cool, allowing the surface to settle back down. Based on geologic evidence, Yellowstone has probably seen a continuous cycle of inflation and deflation over the past 15,000 years, and the cycle will likely continue.

Should We Be Worried?
The Yellowstone Volcano is still active. Evidence for the activity of the Yellowstone Volcano are the 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes per year, active ground deformation, and the over 10,000 thermal features found in Yellowstone. There is no evidence that an eruption is imminent. Geological activity has remained relatively constant at Yellowstone for about the last 30 years. Most scientists think that the buildup preceding a catastrophic eruption would be detectable for weeks and perhaps months to years, meaning, that there would be an advanced notice to all if any possibility of an impending eruption.

Caldera Rim


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