Super volcanoes – the eruptions every 100,000 years that can bring Ice Ages – what allows them to grow so large?

“The eruption of super-volcanoes dwarfs the eruptions of recent volcanoes and can trigger planetary climate change by inducing Ice Ages,” says this article in the Daily Mail.

“One such event was the Huckleberry Ridge eruption of present-day Yellowstone Park about two million years ago, which was more than 2,000 times larger than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington.”

Here's what Yellowstone looked like at the end of May 2011 - COLD and huge! The caldera measures 34 miles (55 km) by 45 miles (72 km). Photo credit: Robert W. Felix

What allows those volcanoes to grow so large?

Scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) think they have found the answer.

“The creation of a ‘halo’ of rock around the magma chamber allows the pressure to build over tens of thousands of years, resulting in extensive uplifting in the roof above the magma chamber,” says Patricia Gregg, lead author of an OSU modeling study.

Repeated intrusions of magma from below heat the surrounding rock and make it malleable.

That increase in ductility* allows the chamber to grow without erupting, whereas when magma chambers are smaller, they may relieve the pressure through frequent small eruptions.

‘You can compare it to cracks forming on the top of baking bread as it expands,’ says Gregg.

Eventually, however, the cracks grow in size and propagate downward toward the magma chamber and trigger a collapse – and then eruption.

“Gregg said that despite its explosive history, it doesn’t appear that Yellowstone is primed for another super-eruption anytime soon.

‘The uplift of the surface at Yellowstone right now is on the order of millimeters,’ she explained.

‘When the Huckleberry Ridge eruption took place, the uplift of the whole Yellowstone region would have been hundreds of meters high, and perhaps as much as a kilometer.’

“Other super-volcano sites include Lake Toba in Sumatra, the central Andes Mountains, New Zealand and Japan.”

See entire article, including photos:

Thanks to Linda Binutti for this link

* Ductility: A solid material’s ability to deform under tensile stress.

9 thoughts on “Super volcanoes – the eruptions every 100,000 years that can bring Ice Ages – what allows them to grow so large?”

  1. Hey, Yellowstone blows every 600,000 years +/-. We only have to be off .001 (tenth of a percent) and it’s 600 years. That’s ~3X the age of the United States.

  2. In school I learned that the center of the Earth consists of molten iron. In the 4 1/2 billion years since the planet was formed, I would think the Earth would slowly cool unless there was some internal source of heat. Using more logic, and nothing scientific, it appears the fires are still burning.

    • The center of the earth is a crystal of solid iron/nickel, 1200 miles in diameter, surrounded by a layer of molten iron/nickel. The crystal rotates slightly faster than the outer part of the planet, and on a slightly different axis. The question is what makes the crystal spin faster – perhaps electical energy from the sun, conducted down through the geomagnetic poles.

  3. Nobody ‘knows’ what the actual structure of the inner earth is. All we have are some limited facts and data collected over the years.
    Much of this data tends to disprove current geological theory and points toward the earth,and other planetary bodies, being hollow instead. Ideas such as continental drift and volcanoes sourcing from the molten mantel don’t fit all the facts.
    So speculating on whether a particular volcano is due to erupt is pretty iffy. But we do have a general geological record showing cyclical periods of high volcanism associated with magnetic field reversals/excursions.

  4. Why is the other super volcano in the US keep under the radar. Long’s Valley Caldera is also over due for a eruption. There has been earthquake near Longs Valley for years swarms of eartquakes around Reno, NV and this past past year swarms of earthquakes around Hawthorn NV. which is just over the mountain range.
    Longs Valley is a lot more dangerous considering where it is located and the large population area that would be effected.

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