Two Super Volcanic Eruptions Created Yellowstone’s Caldera

Posted: Oct 28 2017, 8:00am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 28 2017, 8:05am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Two Super Volcanic Eruptions Created Yellowstone’s Caldera
Credit: Oliver Spalt

Volcanic eruptiosns that occured around 630,000 years ago were so intense that they altered the global climate and caused volcanic winters

New study has solved the longstanding mystery of how Yellowstone’s massive caldera, the second largest on Earth’ was formed.

By using advanced techniques and computer models, researchers have managed to learn more about the processes that created caldera and provided a much clearer picture of atmospheric conditions in ancient times. Researchers have found that Yellowstone triggered two volcanic eruptions around 630,000 years ago. Those catastrophe eruptions not only altered the Earth’s climate but also formed the vast Yellowstone caldera we see today.

“We discovered here that there are two ash-forming super-eruptions 170 years apart and each cooled the ocean by about 3 degrees Celsius.” University of California Santa Barbara geologist Jim Kennett said in a statement.

Yellowstone is one of the largest active supervolcanoes in the world. The volcano, as it name suggests, is capable of erupting on a much larger scale than an ordinary volcano and has spewed lava many times before. The layers of volcanic ash of Yellowstone's most recent super-eruption have been found in seafloor sediments in the Santa Barbara Basin, off the coast of Southern California and contain a remarkably detailed record of ocean and climate change.

Their analysis reveals that the last eruption was not a single event, but two closely spaced eruptions that blocked the sunlight and led to cooling the planet. Both eruptions caused separate volcanic winters, meaning global temperatures reduced through emissions of ash and volcanic sulfur dioxide after each eruption and they occurred at a time when our planet was warming up following an ice age. Not only do the cooling events were consistent with the eruptions of the supervolcano, they were also abrupt and lasted longer than would have been expected.

"We see planetary cooling of sufficient magnitude and duration that there had to be other feedbacks involved,” said Kennett. “It was a fickle, but fortunate time. If these eruptions had happened during another climate state we may not have detected the climatic consequences because the cooling episodes would not have lasted so long.”

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