- © 2008 by the Mineralogical Society of America
Although giant calderas (“supervolcanoes”) may slumber for tens of thousands of years between eruptions, their abundant earthquakes and crustal deformation reveal the potential for future upheaval. Any eventual supereruption could devastate global human populations, so these systems must be carefully scrutinized. Insight into dormant but restless calderas can be gained by monitoring their output of heat and gas. At Yellowstone, the large thermal and CO2 fluxes require massive input of basaltic magma, which continues to invade the lower to mid-crust, sustains the overlying high-silica magma reservoir, and may result in volcanic hazard for millennia to come. The high flux of CO2 may contribute to the measured deformation of the caldera floor and can also modify the pressure, thermal, and chemical signals emitted from the magma. In order to recognize precursors to eruption, we must scrutinize the varied signals emerging from restless calderas with the goal of discriminating magmatic, hydrothermal, and hybrid phenomena.