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Is Yellowstone National Park considered a volcano, and is it a unique anomaly?

Dear Tom,

Is Yellowstone National Park considered a volcano, and is it a unique anomaly?

— Michael O’Brien, Chicago

Dear Michael,

Yellowstone is not unique, but it is the word’s largest display of geysers, mud volcanoes and similar geologic features. And yes, it is a volcano — one of several “supervolcanoes” in the world (volcanoes capable of ejecting in excess of 240 cubic miles of material). Supervolcanic eruptions are thousands of times greater than normal ones, and very rare, occurring probably only once every few hundred thousand years.

Since scientists started tracking it more than 30 years ago, geologic activity at Yellowstone has remained relatively constant, according to the park’s website. In theory, another super eruption is possible, but it’s not likely to happen in the next thousand or even 10,000 years, the site says.