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Ancient Super-Eruptions Much More Powerful Than Expected

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Ancient super-eruptions in Yellowstone Hotspot track ‘significantly larger’ than expected, according to a new study.

International team led by researchers from the University of Leicester has identified 12 giant eruptions around the Snake River Plain in the United States between 8 and 12 million years ago.

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One of the super-eruptions from the Yellowstone hotspot-track, defined as the Castleford Crossing eruption, have been reported by researchers, and this particular event produced a volcanic sheet that covers approximately 14,000 square kilometers – an area the size of Connecticut – in southern Idaho.

Researchers suggest that while the number of volcanic eruptions thought to have originated from the central Snake River Plain in Idaho, USA is less than previously believed, the 12 recorded giant eruptions were likely ‘significantly larger’ than research has previously suggested.

“The size and magnitude of this newly defined eruption is as large, if not larger, than better known eruptions at Yellowstone, and it is just the first in an emerging record of newly discovered super-eruptions during a period of intense magmatic activity between 8 and 12 million years ago,” Dr Tom Knott from the University of Leicester, said in a press release.

The team used a multi-technique approach, including paleomagnetic data, radioisotope dating, and rock and mineral chemistries to identify the size and location of these ancient eruptions.

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Ancient super-eruptions in Yellowstone Hotspot track larger than expected, research shows

One of the super-eruptions from the Yellowstone hotspot-track, defined as the Castleford Crossing eruption, have been reported by researchers, and this particular event produced a volcanic sheet that covers approximately 14,000 square kilometers – an area the size of Connecticut – in southern Idaho.

 “While it is well-know that Yellowstone has erupted catastrophically in recent times perhaps less widely appreciated is that these were just the latest in a protracted history of numerous catastrophic super-eruptions that have burned a track along the Snake River eastwards from Oregon to Yellowstone from 16 Ma to present,” Knott said.

“The size and magnitude of this newly defined eruption is as large, if not larger, than better known eruptions at Yellowstone, and it is just the first in an emerging record of newly discovered super-eruptions during a period of intense magmatic activity between 8 and 12 million years ago.”

The paper, which is published in the Geological Society of America Bulletin.

 

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