Hotspot volcanoes

America has many potentially active volcanoes

The summer of volcanoes keep on going! If you have any questions about volcanoes that you would like me to address, tweet them to me (@eruptionsblog) with the hashtag #sofv or email me at the same username on gmail. Today’s question might help you figure out which late summer vacation you’re thinking of.


Today’s question comes from Dale:

We’ve heard a lot about the hotspot under Yellowstone lately. And the volcanic activity in the Cascades is well known. My question is, where are other “hotspots” in North America that have potential for eruptions that aren’t as well known or recognized?

That’s a great question! Yellowstone and the Cascades are getting a lot of attention when it comes to North American volcanoes, but they’re certainly not the only places we might find active volcanoes across the continent. Now, I can’t highlight all of the “hidden” volcanic areas in the United States, but I will mention a few gems that most people don’t realize are potentially active volcanic areas. You can check out the USGS Volcanic Hazard Program map of the volcanoes it monitors (which includes the status of many of these volcanoes – all currently green).

Valles Caldera, New Mexico

You wouldn’t think a caldera – the largest volcanic landform created by an explosive eruption – could be a “hidden gem”. However, although many people have heard of Yellowstone or Long Valley, the Valles Caldera in New Mexico is just as impressive as either of these behemoths. This caldera is part of a chain of geologically young (less than 5 million years old) volcanic rocks across the Jemez Mountains. Valles has experienced one of the largest known explosive eruptions in the past million years: the famous Bandelier Tuff, which erupted about 1.25 million years ago and spilled over 300 cubic kilometers of ash and volcanic debris in the southwest. Since this massive eruption, smaller domes have formed, some around 40,000 years ago. It’s new domes like these that are the most likely future activity (if any) at the Valles Caldera.

Clear Lake, California

Erik Klemetti