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Long Valley Caldera

Updated on September 4, 2012

Volcanoes are one of natures most dangerous and destructive tools. Put simply, volcanoes are a high-pressure build up of magma underneath the ground. When this pressure of magma is exceedingly large, it becomes a supervolcano. According to the Discovery Channel, there are six known supervolcanoes: Lake Toba, Long Valley, Lake Taupo, Valles, Aira, and the well known, Yellowstone. Other volcanoes such as the ones in Bolivia and Ethiopia are capable of being supervolcanoes, but haven’t been studied enough to be officially declared so. The catastrophic eruptions, which all of these supervolcanoes, at one time or another produced, created long lasting effects.

Resurgent Calderas

All six of the supervolcanoes are calderas. Calderas are bowl shaped depressions caused from the mouth of the volcano caving in on itself. This usually happens when the volcano is incredibly violent and sizeable. Calderas can be as large as one hundred kilometers. There are three types of calderas recognized: Crater-lake, Basaltic, and Resurgent. Resurgent caldera is the specific name reserved for only the largest of volcanoes and supervolcanoes. All six supervolcanoes can also be considered resurgent calderas, but the three in the United States are Yellowstone, Valles, and Long Valley. A slightly rounded floor of a resurgent caldera is common due to swelling uplift and rising lava. This is otherwise known as a dome. Another easy indicator of a resurgent caldera is its sheer size. Resurgent calderas tend to be on the higher side of measured diameter.

General Information

The Long Valley caldera in Mono County, California is the second largest volcano in North America. The Caldera itself is about sixteen kilometers by thirty two kilometers and rises about 2,600 meters high. Long Valley is also part of a volcanic chain called the Mono-Inyo Craters, which spans from Mono Lake to Mammoth Mountain. The caldera is heavily covered by rock due to the volcanoes largest eruption around 760,000 years ago. An estimate of the last known large-scale eruption is fifty thousand years ago.


The Long Valley Caldera, after erupting some 760,000 years ago created destruction. The lava and ash decimated everything in its path. Fortunately, after the chaos had passed, many beneficial things came from the eruption. The attractions around the Mono-Inyo Craters and Mammoth Mountain will be popular and highly traveled for years to come. The hydrothermal system creates even more attractions and benefits society with energy and valuable minerals. The odds of another eruption in the near future is slim, but the U.S. Geological Survey is doing everything they can to predict such an event. They have even been working vigorously to predict earthquakes to ensure complete safety among visitors. The Long Valley Caldera is a beautiful landmark created from an incredibly dangerous geological event. The supervolcano itself, though highly studied, is still relatively mysterious.


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