The formation of Yellowstone Caldera


Rachel Annetts



The Yellowstone Caldera is the youngest volcano in the Yellowstone region. It is located on a continental hotspot located 1600 km east of the western North American plate boundary. Majority of volcanoes are formed on plate boundaries, but Yellowstone is located in the middle of a plate. Yellowstone was formed in the middle of a plate boundary because of a magma plume penetrating the lithosphere. One theory for how plumes are formed is that melting deep within the earth’s mantle and movement of magma by convection causes magma to ascend through the Earth's crust to form plumes.There is an alternate theory that plumes do not exist. Instead volcanic activity in the in the middle of plates is caused by flexibility of the plates. Flexibility of the plates causes deformation of plates at ridge and subduction zones which then causes the composition of the upper mantle to become a mixture of different components. [1]



Many volcanoes formed above the Yellowstone mantle plume before the Yellowstone Caldera. The mantle plume remained in the same spot as the continental plates moved across the plume forming a line of volcanoes over millions of years. As the plates moved the caldera would move on top of it while the plume stayed stationary. This meant that each time an old caldera was moved a new one would form over the plume. This succession ofmultiple ancient calderas formed the 700km long Snake River Plain. [2]


  1. ^ Robert B. Smith, Michael Jordan, Bernhard Steinberger, Christine M. Puskas, Jamie Farrell, Gregory P. Waite, Stephan Husen, Wu-Lung Chang, Richard O'Connell - Geodynamics of the Yellowstone hotspot and mantle plume: Seismic and GPS imaging, kinematics, and mantle flow.
  2. ^ Robert B. Smith, Michael Jordan, Bernhard Steinberger, Christine M. Puskas, Jamie Farrell, Gregory P. Waite, Stephan Husen, Wu-Lung Chang, Richard O'Connell - Geodynamics of the Yellowstone hotspot and mantle plume: Seismic and GPS imaging, kinematics, and mantle flow.