Mono Craters

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 37.88°N
  • 119°W

  • 2796 m
    9171 ft

  • 323120
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit

  • Volcano

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Basic Data

Volcano Number

Last Known Eruption



1350 CE

2796 m / 9171 ft


Volcano Types

Lava dome(s)
Tuff ring(s)

Rock Types


Tectonic Setting

Rift zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)


Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km

Geological Summary

The Mono Craters, lying on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada between Mono Lake and Long Valley caldera, form an arcuate, 17-km-long group of 30 or more dominantly rhyolitic lava domes, lava flows, and tephra rings. The partially overlapping dike-fed domes were erupted near the margin of a pull-apart basin on the east side of the Sierra Nevada. Explosive eruptions began more than 50,000 years ago from now-buried vents, but almost all of the exposed domes and flows are of Holocene age. Activity has propagated both north and south from the center of the chain during the late Holocene. The latest eruptions occurred about 600 years ago, nearly contemporaneously with the eruptions from Inyo Craters to the south, producing a series of tephra rings and obsidian lava domes and flows at the northern end of the chain accompanied by eruption of locally extensive tephra layers.


The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography.

Bailey R A, 1989. Geologic map of Long Valley caldera, Mono-Inyo Craters volcanic chain, and vicinity, eastern California. U S Geol Surv Map, I-1933, 11 p text.

Bailey R A, Miller C D, Sieh K, 1989. Excursion 13B: Long Valley caldera and Mono-Inyo Craters volcanic chain. New Mexico Bur Mines Min Resour Mem, 47: 227-254.

Bursik M, 1993. Subplinian eruption mechanisms inferred from volatile and clast dispersal data. J Volc Geotherm Res, 57: 57-70.

Bursik M, Sieh K, 1989. Range front faulting and volcanism in the Mono Basin, eastern California. J Geophys Res, 94: 15, 585-15,609.

Bursik M, Sieh K, Meltzner A, 2014. Deposits of the most recent eruption in the Southern Mono Craters, California: description, interpretation and implications for regional marker tephras. J Volc Geotherm Res, 275: 114-131.

California Div. Mines and Geology, 1958-69. Geologic atlas of California, 1:250,0000 scale.. Calif Div Mines Geol.

Green J, Short N M, 1971. Volcanic Landforms and Surface Features: a Photographic Atlas and Glossary. New York: Springer-Verlag, 519 p.

Hildreth W, 2004. Volcanological perspectives on Long Valley, Mammoth Mountain, and Mono Craters: several contiguous but discrete systems. J Volc Geotherm Res, 136: 169-198.

IAVCEI, 1973-80. Post-Miocene Volcanoes of the World. IAVCEI Data Sheets, Rome: Internatl Assoc Volc Chemistry Earth's Interior..

Kent D V, Hemming S R, Turrin B D, 2002. Laschamp excursion at Mono Lake?. Earth Planet Sci Lett, 197: 151-164.

Shaffer W, Bursik M, Renshaw C, 2010. Elastic source model of the North Mono eruption (1325-1368 A.D.) based on shoreline deformation. Bull Volc, 72: 1131-1152.

Sieh K, Bursik M, 1986. Most recent eruption of the Mono Craters, eastern central California. J Geophys Res, 91: 12,539-12,571.

Eruptive History

Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
1350 ± 20 years Unknown Confirmed 4 Dendrochronology Panum Crater and nearby vents
1000 ± 200 years Unknown Confirmed   Hydration Rind Dome on NW edge of NW Coulee
0620 ± 27 years Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (corrected) South Coulee
0490 ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (uncorrected) NW Coulee and Pumice Pit dome
0440 ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Southern Mono Craters
0320 ± 200 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected) South Coulee?
0010 ± 200 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected) South Coulee?
0700 BCE ± 800 years Unknown Confirmed   Hydration Rind Central Mono Craters
3850 BCE ± 1160 years Unknown Confirmed   Hydration Rind Crater north of Punchbowl
6750 BCE ± 1740 years Unknown Confirmed   Hydration Rind Punchbowl

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.


Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Amphitheater Crater Crater
West Control Crater Crater


Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Crater Mountain Dome 2796 m 37° 53' 0" N 119° 0' 0" W
Cratered Dome Dome 2134 m 37° 55' 0" N 119° 2' 0" W
North Coulee Dome 2583 m 37° 53' 28" N 119° 1' 0" W
Panum Dome 2121 m 37° 56' 0" N 119° 3' 0" W
Pumice Pit Dome Dome 2060 m 37° 55' 0" N 119° 2' 28" W
Punchbowl Dome 2455 m 37° 49' 0" N 119° 2' 0" W
South Coulee Dome 2691 m 37° 51' 0" N 119° 1' 0" W
Upper Dome Dome 2390 m 37° 55' 0" N 119° 2' 0" W

Photo Gallery

The Mono Craters volcanic field, between Mono Lake in the foreground and Long Valley caldera at the upper left, is a 17-km-long chain of rhyolitic lava domes and thick, viscous lava flows. Mono Craters have been frequently active during the Holocene. Panum crater (the vent nearest to Mono Lake), is partially filled by a lava dome and was the site of the latest eruption from Mono Craters, about 600 years ago.

Photo by R. Von Huene, 1971 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The hackly surfaced Panum lava dome, filling a tephra ring at the northern end of the Mono Craters chain, was one of five rhyolitic lava domes and flows emplaced at the end of a major eruption about 600 years ago. The eruption, which began with powerful plinian explosive eruptions accompanied by pyroclastic flows and surges, occurred just a year or two prior to another major eruption at Inyo Craters to the south.

Photo by Dan Dzurisin, 1982 (U.S. Geological Survey).
Flow-banded rhyolitic obsidian of the Panum Crater lava dome was erupted about 600 years ago at the northern end of the Mono Craters. The greenish-yellow areas are lichens on the surface of the dome.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1973 (Smithsonian Institution).
The Mono Craters volcanic field south of Mono Lake at the upper left, is a 17-km-long arcuate chain of rhyolitic lava domes and thick, viscous lava flows. Mono Craters has been frequently active throughout the Holocene, along with the Inyo Craters chain to the south. The Inyo Craters chain, which includes the Wilson Butte, Obsidian and Glass Creek domes, which are oriented diagonally along a N-S line from the left center to lower right of the photo. The latest eruptions of Mono Craters and Inyo Craters occurred nearly simultaneously around 600 years ago.

Photo by Roy Bailey, 1980 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The Mono Craters volcanic field, seen here from the NW, is a 17-km-long arcuate chain of lava domes, lava flows, and tephra rings. The latest eruptions took place about 600 years ago from several vents at the northern end of the chain, producing rhyolitic lava domes and flows.

Photo by Victoria Avery, 1992 (Smithsonian Institution).

Smithsonian Sample Collections Database

The following 52 samples associated with this volcano can be found in the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections. Catalog number links will open a window with more information.

Catalog Number Sample Description
NMNH 108305 Basalt
NMNH 111123-59 Rhyolitic pumice
NMNH 111123-60 Rhyolitic obsidian
NMNH 115401-1 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-1 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-10 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-11 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-12 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-13 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-14 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-15 Pumice
NMNH 117460-16 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-17 Pumice
NMNH 117460-18 Pumice
NMNH 117460-19 Pumice
NMNH 117460-2 Pumice
NMNH 117460-20 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-21 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-22 Perlite
NMNH 117460-23 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-24 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-25 Glass
NMNH 117460-26 Pumice
NMNH 117460-27 Pumice
NMNH 117460-28 Pumice
NMNH 117460-29 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-3 Glass
NMNH 117460-4 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-5 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-6 Pumice
NMNH 117460-7 Obsidian
NMNH 117460-8 Pumice
NMNH 117460-9 Obsidian
NMNH 22898 Obsidian
NMNH 29631-1 Obsidian
NMNH 29631-2 Obsidian
NMNH 29631-3 Rhyolite
NMNH 29631-4 Obsidian
NMNH 29631-5 Hyalo liparite
NMNH 29631-6 Hyalo liparite
NMNH 29633 Lapilli
NMNH 35271 Obsidian
NMNH 35272-1 Obsidian
NMNH 35272-2 Obsidian
NMNH 35273 Obsidian
NMNH 37209 Pumice
NMNH 37210 Pumice
NMNH 37211 Pumice
NMNH 37211-1 Pumice
NMNH 37211-2 Pumice
NMNH 37216 Hypersthene andesite
NMNH 76718 Tufa

Affiliated Sites

Large Eruptions of Mono Craters Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
MODVOLC - HIGP MODIS Thermal Alert System Using infrared satellite Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data, scientists at the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai'i, developed an automated system called MODVOLC to map thermal hot-spots in near real time. For each MODIS image, the algorithm automatically scans each 1 km pixel within it to check for high-temperature hot-spots. When one is found the date, time, location, and intensity are recorded. MODIS looks at every square km of the Earth every 48 hours, once during the day and once during the night, and the presence of two MODIS sensors in space allows at least four hot-spot observations every two days. Each day updated global maps are compiled to display the locations of all hot spots detected in the previous 24 hours. There is a drop-down list with volcano names which allow users to 'zoom-in' and examine the distribution of hot-spots at a variety of spatial scales.
MIROVA Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity (MIROVA) is a near real time volcanic hot-spot detection system based on the analysis of MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) data. In particular, MIROVA uses the Middle InfraRed Radiation (MIR), measured over target volcanoes, in order to detect, locate and measure the heat radiation sourced from volcanic activity.