Yellowstone ‘super-eruption’ less super than thought

“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.

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. 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


10 thoughts on “Yellowstone ‘super-eruption’ less super than thought

  1. Good news and bad news?

    The eruptions weren’t as big as previously though. Good.

    But they may be more frequent. Bad.

  2. Only 2,200 times the ash output of the Mt St Helens eruption in 1980 (which was 1 cubic Km of ash). Remember it was the eruption that blew off half of the mountainside of St Helens ? Yellowstone was only two thousand two hundred times the larger than that little cork popping event at St Helens. That’s the way this reads to me.

  3. If she blows, it’s the end of human life in most of North America. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen on our watch and that the sleeping monster doesn’t awaken.

    • How Human Beings Almost Vanished From Earth In 70,000 B.C.
      ..One study says we hit as low as 40…. Well, the technical term is 40 “breeding pairs”…

      …around 70,000 B.C., a volcano called Toba, on Sumatra, in Indonesia went off, blowing roughly 650 miles of vaporized rock into the air. It is the largest volcanic eruption we know of, dwarfing everything else…

      Sam Kean’s new book on genetics, The Violinist’s Thumb, tells the story of Toba, the supervolcano, to explore how human genes record a “bottleneck” or a drastic narrowing of genetic diversity 70,000 years ago…

      There are more technical papers on the subject out there but I thought this article hits the high points.

  4. Keep an eye on that warm pool over the NE Pacific. It has altered our weather on this end of the pond yet no extreme heatwaves. It’s just gradients are flat.

    Here is a post from a weather from I look at once a day or every other day.

    Quote: “And so it goes, PDX should this evening close out another 60+ degree day, tying last year’s monthly record of 22. It’ll be a tougher task, but if the 63 holds that will be #14 there or above for the month; adding to an already crooked record.”
    End quote.

    The last two summers have been really humid here and winter time lows have been above average a lot of 40+ lows.

    The weather has been absolutely gross the last several years with meandering patterns putting us in the most DEPRESSING spot possible.

    No extreme riding or extreme troughing.

    Edit. I mean no extreme ridging or troughs on either end of the scale.


  5. I agree Kyle. I live not far from you, and this year has been an odd one for sure.

    It’s humid, and it’s warm, but it isn’t like the past summers I remember – not even close. Still, the lack of rain is kind of depressing. I’m eager for some rain puddles and a good drenching.

  6. Good news is that they are reporting that are studying Yellowstone. Bad news is that they are not telling the truth.

    This big boy is awake. Lots of magma movement lately.

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