What Type of Volcano is Yellowstone?

Written by August Croft
Updated: May 13, 2023
© iStock.com/BigshotD3
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Whether you knew about this fact or not, Yellowstone National Park is built upon the foundations of an ancient volcano, but what type of volcano is Yellowstone? When a volcano erupted millions of years ago, how big was the eruption, and what did it do to the overall landscape of Yellowstone? 

In this article, we will go over everything you need to know about the Yellowstone Volcano and what type it is exactly. We will also address what happened to the Yellowstone Volcano millions of years ago, as well as how many volcanic eruptions have occurred in Yellowstone’s history. Let’s get started and talk all about the Yellowstone Volcano now! 

The Yellowstone Volcano: An Overview and Type

What Type of Volcano is Yellowstone
Technically, the Yellowstone Volcano is now a caldera, a type of collapsed volcano.

©iStock.com/SergeYatunin

Millions of years ago, Yellowstone National Park was built out of volcanic eruptions. Three eruptions were the primary cause of the National Park we know and love today, especially when you consider the fact that you can see remnants of these volcanic eruptions today. However, the Yellowstone Volcano isn’t exactly something you can hike to the top of, or even see nowadays.

Upon erupting, the Yellowstone Volcano (a supervolcano, which means it is capable of producing magnitude 8 blasts) formed distinct calderas in the earth. Three calderas were formed during the millions of years that the Yellowstone Volcano existed, and these calderas still exist today. So, what type of volcano is Yellowstone? Technically, it is a caldera.

What exactly happened during these eruptions, and how many eruptions occurred in the past? Does this give us a sign as to what may happen to Yellowstone National Park in the future? Let’s locate Yellowstone on a map, and then we’ll discuss what happened to the Yellowstone volcano.

Where is Yellowstone on a Map?

What Happened to the Yellowstone Volcano?

What Type of Volcano is Yellowstone
There were two other super volcanic eruptions that happened within Yellowstone National Park’s history, with many more small eruptions occurring over time.

©iStock.com/lucky-photographer

The Yellowstone Volcano erupted 3 separate times, with enough force to be considered a supervolcano eruption. These events formed calderas in Yellowstone National Park, some of which you can still see the domes of. These resurgent domes give you some insight as to what the Yellowstone Volcano was like before it blew its cone away and collapsed into the Earth. 

If you thought the eruption of Mount Saint Helens was enormous, it has nothing on the Yellowstone Volcano eruptions that occurred millions of years ago. The first blast occurred just over two million years ago, and this eruption had nearly 6,000 times the amount of ash and debris compared to the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. 

But this wasn’t the only other option that occurred. There were two other super volcanic eruptions that happened within Yellowstone National Park’s history, with many more small eruptions occurring over time. Due to the force of these blasts, the Yellowstone Volcano likely had a soft cinder cone top originally, but now it is a caldera, which is a depression in the Earth, like a bowl or valley.

How Many Volcanic Eruptions Have Occurred in Yellowstone?

What Type of Volcano is Yellowstone
Given the strength of the volcanic eruptions in Yellowstone National Park’s history, the volcano has since formed multiple calderas throughout the park.

©iStock.com/BigshotD3

There have been a number of volcanic eruptions in Yellowstone National Park, but none recently, and likely none in our lifetimes will occur again. However, besides the three super volcanic eruptions that occurred millions of years ago, there have been roughly 80 other volcanic eruptions in Yellowstone over the course of its history.

Yellowstone is fueled by both volcanic and seismic activity, given its unique thermal waters and how this affects this area, both above and below ground. You can see evidence of these volcanic eruptions throughout the park, whether it be unique rock formations in Mammoth Hot Springs, the force of Old Faithful when it erupts, or even a petrified forest that was created millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions. 

Given the strength of the volcanic eruptions in Yellowstone National Park’s history, the volcano has since formed multiple calderas throughout the park. These calderas are sunken volcanoes, for lack of a better description, but does that mean they can still erupt? What is the likelihood of the Yellowstone Volcano erupting in our future? 

Will the Yellowstone Volcano Erupt Again?

What Type of Volcano is Yellowstone
Given the unique position Yellowstone National Park is in, and our advancements in technology, we would know well in advance before a volcanic eruption occurs.

©iStock.com/ChrisB

It is unlikely that the Yellowstone Volcano will erupt again in our lifetimes. Most experts suggest the fact that the Yellowstone Volcano is unlikely to erupt in the next hundred years, or even the next thousand years. However, nothing is a guarantee, especially when you consider the fact that these calderas are indeed still active and fueled by hydrothermal activity. 

The good news is that Yellowstone National Park is constantly being monitored for both seismic and volcanic activity. There are countless monitoring stations posted throughout the park, and a number of Yellowstone Park Rangers and scientific experts studying the hydrothermal and volcanic situations in the Park. Yellowstone is unlike anywhere else in the world, and it is being monitored constantly.

Given the unique position Yellowstone National Park is in, and our advancements in technology, we would know well in advance before a volcanic eruption occurs. Not only would there be a number of earthquakes occurring beforehand, but the calderas and geysers would also begin behaving in a fashion that is unlike them, or unlike what we have observed up until this point. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Yellowstone Volcano, check out our other articles available regarding this fascinating hydrothermal structure. While there’s no reason to panic about a volcanic eruption happening in our lifetime, it’s still just one piece of the fascinating landscape that makes up Yellowstone National Park!

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The Featured Image

old-faithful-geyser-picture-id134211155
Tourists gather to watch as Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupts forcing out boiling water and steam from the bedrock below.
© iStock.com/BigshotD3

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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