Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Yellowstone 'super-eruption' less super, more frequent than thought

Date:
April 30, 2012
Source:
Washington State University
Summary:
The Yellowstone "super-volcano" is a little less super -- but more active -- than previously thought. Researchers say the biggest Yellowstone eruption, which created the two-million-year-old Huckleberry Ridge deposit, was actually two different eruptions at least 6,000 years apart. Their results paint a new picture of a more active volcano than previously thought and can help recalibrate the likelihood of another big eruption in the future.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, USA. Researchers say the biggest Yellowstone eruption, which created the 2 million year old Huckleberry Ridge deposit, was actually two different eruptions at least 6,000 years apart.
Credit: bigshotd3 / Fotolia

The Yellowstone "super-volcano" is a little less super -- but more active -- than previously thought.

Related Articles


Researchers at Washington State University and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre say the biggest Yellowstone eruption, which created the 2 million year old Huckleberry Ridge deposit, was actually two different eruptions at least 6,000 years apart.

Their results paint a new picture of a more active volcano than previously thought and can help recalibrate the likelihood of another big eruption in the future. Before the researchers split the one eruption into two, it was the fourth largest known to science.

"The Yellowstone volcano's previous behavior is the best guide of what it will do in the future," says Ben Ellis, co-author and post-doctoral researcher at Washington State University's School of the Environment. "This research suggests explosive volcanism from Yellowstone is more frequent than previously thought."

The new ages for each Huckleberry Ridge eruption reduce the volume of the first event to 2,200 cubic kilometers, roughly 12 percent less than previously thought. A second eruption of 290 cubic kilometers took place more than 6,000 years later.

That first eruption still deserves to be called "super," as it is one of the largest known to have occurred on Earth and darkened the skies with ash from southern California to the Mississippi River. 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 study, funded by the National Science Foundation and published in the June issue of the Quaternary Geochronology, used high-precision argon isotope dating to make the new calculations. The radioactive decay rate from potassium 40 to argon 40 serves as a "rock clock" for dating samples and has a precision of .2 percent. Darren Mark, co-author and a post-doctoral research fellow at the SUERC, recently helped fine tune the technique and improve it by 1.2 percent -- a small-sounding difference that can become huge across geologic time.

"Improved precision for greater temporal resolution is not just about adding another decimal place to a number, says Mark. "It's far more exciting. It's like getting a sharper lens on a camera. It allows us to see the world more clearly."

The project asks the question: Might super-eruptions actually be products of multiple, closely spaced eruptions through time? With improved temporal resolution, in times to come, maybe super-eruptions will be not quite so super.


Story Source:

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

Cite This Page:

Washington State University. "Yellowstone 'super-eruption' less super, more frequent than thought." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430101036.htm>.
Washington State University. (2012, April 30). Yellowstone 'super-eruption' less super, more frequent than thought. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430101036.htm
Washington State University. "Yellowstone 'super-eruption' less super, more frequent than thought." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430101036.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) EU leaders achieve a show of unity by striking a compromise deal on carbon emissions. But David Cameron's bid to push back EU budget contributions gets a slap in the face as the European Commission demands an extra 2bn euros. David Pollard reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) A rare tornado ripped roofs off buildings, uprooted trees and shattered windows Thursday afternoon in the southwest Washington city of Longview, but there were no reports of injuries. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Newsy (Oct. 24, 2014) Lava from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island has accelerated as it travels toward a town called Pahoa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins