New Mexico has a Yellowstone-like region, Valles Caldera

Yellowstone Caldera Chronicles is a weekly column written by scientists and collaborators of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. This week’s contribution is from Michael Poland, geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey and scientist-in-charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.

New Mexico is a volcanic wonderland, home to numerous types of volcanic features like lava flows similar to those in Hawaii and eroded stratovolcanoes that once resembled the giants of the Cascade Range. The youngest eruption in the state occurred about 3,900 years ago near Grants — the McCarty’s lava flow.

One of the most noteworthy volcanic areas in New Mexico is located in the Jemez Mountains, in the north-central part of the state. That’s where you’ll find Valles Caldera, a volcanic system that is similar to Yellowstone Caldera in many ways.

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The Jemez Mountains are located at the intersection of two important geologic structures. First, the Jemez Lineament angles across the state along a southwest-northeast trend, from southern Arizona through northeastern New Mexico. There are numerous volcanic fields along its length, including the San Carlos and Springerville volcanic fields in eastern Arizona and the Zuni-Bandera, Mount Taylor and Raton-Clayton volcanic field

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