Yellowstone National Park, another Volcanic System above a Hot Spot (Grades 7-8)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is not the only national park sitting above a hot spot. Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming is famous for its geysers and hot springs. The geysers and hot springs are the result of heat generated by magma within the crust (and groundwater near the surface). The magma is from a hot spot beneath northwest Wyoming.

Although both parks result from hot spot volcanism, they differ considerably in many ways. Yellowstone developed on continental crust, not oceanic crust. The last eruption of a caldera at Yellowstone was 600,000 years ago, about the time that Mauna Loa was just starting to grow on the ocean floor. Eruptions at Yellowstone can produce great volumes (hundreds to thousands of cubic kilometers) of rhyolitic ash that can cover large areas of the western United States. Eruptions in Hawaii rarely exceed one cubic kilometer in volume and produce basaltic lavas that typically travel only a few kilometers. Because of their rhyolitic composition, eruptions at Yellowstone are extremely violent. In contrast, gentle eruptions in Hawaii have been watched by millions of visitors.

Photographs of Yellowstone are available at the homepages of University of Montana School of Forestry, and the University of Utah Seismograph Stations. Yellowstone is one of the worlds largest volcanic systems.

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