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Supervolcanoes of the San Juan Mountains

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, November 22, 2021 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1NV095
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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La Garita caldera Colorado (Photo: Kirt Kempter)

Although the rugged San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado appear similar to other alpine terrains in Colorado, their geologic story reveals an explosive volcanic origin, including 18 supervolcano eruptions that peaked between 26 and 28 million years ago. Among them is that of the La Garita caldera (crater) of 28 million years ago, regarded as one of the largest known in the planet’s history, producing nearly 5000 cubic kilometers of magma—five times the volume of the last Yellowstone caldera eruption.

Join volcanologist Kirt Kempter on a virtual geologic tour of the region centered around the historic mining town of Creede. Discover how each of these massive eruptions transformed the landscape in the blink of an eye, spawning pyroclastic flows that inundated valleys and reconfigured river drainage systems. Kempter explores how the eruptions were discovered and the ongoing research to interpret and understand how these giant volcanic craters form. Maps, photos, and Google Earth flyovers help tell this amazing geologic story.

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