Who is Watching Yellowstone’s Volcano and Nearby Earthquakes?

Earthquake swarms and ground elevation changes are almost everyday occurrences at Yellowstone. Each year, 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes occur within the Yellowstone volcano region, averaging at about 1,600. Although most are too small to be felt (less than a magnitude 3.0), these quakes show the active nature of the Yellowstone area, one of the most seismically active areas in the United States.

Some might think such events near a volcano would signal an impending eruption, but in Yellowstone, it seems to be business as usual.

The most devastating earthquake on record to hit the Yellowstone area occurred on August 17, 1959. The Hebgen Lake Earthquake measured 7.5 on the Richter scale. At the time, it was the third-largest earthquake recorded in the lower 48 states.

The National Park Service has been monitoring the Yellowstone volcanic activity very closely for the last 30 years. Their prediction? The chance of a catastrophic eruption in the next 1,000 -10,000 years, is “very unlikely.”

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

Yellowstone earthquake activity is monitored around the clock by staff of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO), a cooperative effort of the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the University of Utah. The YVO is one of five USGS observatories that monitor volcanoes within the United States for the purposes of science and public safety. The others are based in Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, and California.

In the above video, USGS Scientist-in-Charge of Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, Jake Lowenstern, answers the following questions to provide a tour of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory: “What is YVO?”, “How do you monitor volcanic activity at Yellowstone?”, “How are satellites used to study deformation?”, “Do you monitor geysers or any other aspect of the Park?”, “Are earthquakes and ground deformation common at Yellowstone?”, “Why is YVO a relatively small group?”, and “Where can I get more information?”

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/yvo

More Yellowstone Earthquake Monitoring

Seismic Monitor from iris.edu

Seismic Monitor from iris.edu

The University of Utah operates 31 seismograph stations throughout Yellowstone. To see a map of where earthquakes occurred in the last hour, day, or week, visit quake.utah.edu/index.shtml

In the global view, visit the earthquake monitor at www.iris.edu/seismon/. A global list of earthquake and volcano web sites can be found at http://earthquake.usgs.gov/