Snake River eruption history offers glimpse into Yellowstone hot spot dynamics

About 8 million years ago, what is now the Snake River Plain of southern Idaho ripped open in a catastrophic super-eruption that spewed roughly 1,900 cubic kilometers of lava and ash across thousands of square kilometers. New research, based on field studies and geochemical analyses of rocks collected on the plain, shows that this eruption was just one of many massive mid-Miocene volcanic events arising from the Yellowstone hot spot. The work also provides a window into the complex and evolving mantle-crust interactions that have occurred as the North American Plate has moved westward over the hot spot.

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Kate S. Zalzal

Kate Zalzal

Zalzal is a freelance writer and former editorial intern for EARTH. She holds a master's degree in geoscience from University of Massachusetts Amherst and most recently studied paleoclimatology at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016 - 06:00