Tag Archives: Yellowstone

Updates; Yellowstone and Chinese earthquake

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The death toll from the Mg 6.1 quake in Yunnan province has since hit 615 with a revised injury total of 3,143. The earthquake on August 3rd still has over 10,000 troops and volunteers leading the search which has been complicated by heavy rain and landslides.

Since my article ‘As Yellowstone melts…’ on July 21st, the USGS has released the following short statement further trying to ease speculation of a pending eruption;

A Short Statement Regarding Recent Rumors
August 08, 2014

Though we love doing research at YVO, we prefer it when the research is on topics geological rather than the origin of false rumors. Nevertheless, we have received enough concerned emails and phone calls that we’ve spent some time tracking down a few of the statements made on various “alternative Internet news sources.”

1) First, everyone should know that geological activity, including earthquakes and ground uplift/subsidence is well within historical norms and seismicity is actually a bit low at present.

2) Concern over road closures is much overblown. There’s been one road closure of a small side road – just over three miles long – that was closed for two days. As one can imagine, it is not easy to maintain roads that pass over thermal areas where ground temperatures can approach those of boiling water. Roads at Yellowstone often need repair because of damage by thermal features as well as extreme cold winter conditions.

3) The park has not been evacuated. This one is pretty easy to verify by everyone. If the Old Faithful webcam shows people, or if news articles are coming out about a hobbyist’s remote control helicopter crashing into a hot spring, Yellowstone is certainly open for business.

4) No volcanologists have stated that Yellowstone is likely to erupt this week, this month or this year. In one recent article, a name was attributed to a “senior volcanologist”, but that person does not appear to exist, and a geologist with that name assures us that he did not supply any quotes regarding Yellowstone.

5) Finally, we note that those who’ve kept track of Yellowstone over the past decade or so, have seen a constant stream of “predictions” regarding imminent eruptions at Yellowstone. Many have had specific dates in mind, none had a scientific basis, and none have come true.

We will continue to provide updates on geological activity at Yellowstone, and educational materials to help understand the science around Yellowstone monitoring.Virtually everything known about Yellowstone’s spectacular volcanic past comes from the scientists who work at this observatory, at all our eight member agencies. We’re the ones who mapped the deposits, figured out the ages of the eruptions, measured the gases, located the earthquakes, and tracked the ground movement. A few of us have been doing it for over forty years. We will continue to help you understand what’s happening at Yellowstone now, and what’s likely to happen in the future.

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As Yellowstone Melts…..

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Yellowstone has long been a favourite among conspiracy theorists and scare mongeres alike. The national park is atop a magma chamber now estimated to be at least 18 miles wide and between 3 and 9 miles deep*. This creates some of the most famous and stunning hydrothermal activity in the world such as Old Faithful geyser that erupts on average 18-21 times a day**. It makes it almost impossible to deny that this supervolcano is still very active despite being around 640,00 years since its last eruption. Each past super eruption has spewed out in excess of 1000 cubic kilometres of material. The largest eruption in recorded history was Tambora’s 1815 catastrophe which only erupted about 50 cubic kilometres, yet was enough to change world climate for several years and kill over 100 000 people.

Lately Yellowstone has hit the headlines for a less extreme reason. Roughly 3 miles Firehole Lake Drive, a road leading to Old Faithful, had to be closed as the aspsalt had melted. Of course this lead to headlines of impending doom and an eruption around the corner as magma must be rising and melting the roads. Truth is this is normal behavior in a system as large as Yellowstone, there road closures are almost routine. Asphalt will start to soften at the low temperature of just 50 degrees Celsius and will be liquid at about 250. The rhyolitic lavas which typically erupt from the volcano have lows of  500 degrees Celsius which, if rising magma was a cause, would mean the road would be a near constant river state. The melting is actually cause by the same system that feeds Old Faithful, water. Water has an exceptionally high heat capacity which means ground water any where near the volcanic system can run at extremely high temperatures and either explode out to the surface as steam like at the geysers or heat the surface causing roads to melt.

This is a very common occurrence at Yellowstone and other volcanic sites around the world and is not a sign that Wyoming is about to blow. The Yellowstone Observatory*** constantly monitors activity in and around the park currently have alert levels set to normal. Seismicity is said to be at “normal back ground levels” and caldera uplift continuing as it has been at a slow rate since the beginning of the year now at about 3cm. If there were any signs of impending doom we should be able to know in advance.

 

* http://phys.org/news/2013-12-yellowstone-magma-bigger-thought.html accessed 17.7.14

** http://www.wyomingtourism.org/articles/detail/Old-Faithful-in-Yellowstone-National-Park/405167 accessed 17.7.14

*** http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/yvo/ accessed 17.7.14