Such plumes are not all that rare. There are about thirty active ones on the Earth at the moment, and they are responsible for many of the world's best-known islands and island chains—Iceland, Hawaii, the Azores, Canaries, and Galapagos archipelagos, little Pitcairn in the middle of the South Pacific, and many others—but apart from Yellowstone they are all oceanic. No one has the faintest idea how or why Yellowstone's ended up beneath a continental plate. Only two things are certain: that the crust at Yellowstone is thin and that the world beneath it is hot. But whether the crust is thin because of the hot spot or whether the hot spot is there because the crust is thin is a matter of heated (as it were) debate. The continental nature of the crust makes a huge difference to its eruptions. Where the other supervolcanoes tend to bubble away steadily and in a comparatively benign fashion, Yellowstone blows explosively. It doesn't happen often, but when it does you want to stand well back.
Since its first known eruption 16.5 million years ago, it has blown up about a hundred times, but the most recent three eruptions are the ones that get written about. The last eruption was a thousand times greater than that of Mount St. Helens; the one before that was 280 times bigger, and the one before was so big that nobody knows exactly how big it was. It was at least twenty-five hundred times greater than St. Helens, but perhaps eight thousand times more monstrous.