“Only” 2,200 cubic kilometers of ash (527.8 cubic miles).
Researchers at Washington State University and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre say the biggest Yellowstone “super” eruption, which created the 2 million year old Huckleberry Ridge deposit, was actually two different eruptions at least 6,000 years apart.
By comparison, the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens produced 1 cubic kilometer of ash. The larger blast of Oregon’s Mount Mazama 6,850 years ago produced 116 cubic kilometers of ash.
The new ages for each Huckleberry Ridge eruption reduce the volume of the first event to 2,200 cubic kilometers (527.8 cu miles), roughly 12 percent less than previously thought. A second eruption of 290 cubic kilometers took place more than 6,000 years later.
Stop and think about that. A cubic mile is one mile long, one mile wide, and one mile tall. Five-hundred-and-twenty-seven cubic miles is a lot of ash!
“This research suggests explosive volcanism from Yellowstone is more frequent than previously thought,” says Ben Ellis, co-author and post-doctoral researcher at Washington State University’s School of the Environment.
- Ben S. Ellis, Darren F. Mark, Chad J. Pritchard, John A. Wolff. Temporal dissection of the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff using the 40Ar/39Ar dating technique. Quaternary Geochronology, 2012; 9: 34 DOI: 10.1016/j.quageo.2012.01.006