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The Yellowstone Plateau hosts an active volcanic system, with subterranean magma (molten rock), boiling, pressurized waters, and a variety of active faults with significant earthquake hazard. Within the next few decades, large and moderate earthquakes and hydrothermal explosions are certain to occur. Volcanic eruptions are less likely, but are ultimately inevitable in this active volcanic region. This document summarizes protocols and tools to be used by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) during earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hydrothermal explosions or any similar geological activity that could lead to a volcanic eruption.
As needed, YVO will be an advisor within the National Incident Management System (NIMS). The YVO Branch within the Operations Section of the Incident Command will consist of three prescribed groups (Monitoring, Information, and Support). The three groups and their subsidiary teams form a scalable system to respond to a variety of scenarios of geological and volcanic unrest. The YVO response will be organized through an event coordination committee, led by the YVO Branch Chief (also known as the Scientist-in-Charge) and consisting of the group supervisors and the existing YVO coordinating scientists. An independent advisory board will work in conjunction with YVO to suggest further avenues for monitoring and research during quiescent periods and will provide scientific oversight to crisis response during unrest.
Formal alerts and information statements will be issued by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in conjunction with YVO partners and through standard telephone and Internet “calldown” lists. External communications will be coordinated by the public information team leader, in association with any Joint Information Center set up through the Incident Command. Internal communications will be handled through a computerized log system that can be used as an archive for public and non-public documents and to provide a forum for discussion by observatory personnel and collaborators.
Within 2 months of publication of this document, provisional group supervisors and team leaders will be assigned. The response plan will be updated every three years by the YVO coordinating scientists and will be available through the YVO and USGS public websites. The calldown list will be updated at least once per year and placed on the internal log system.
5. Alert Notification Scheme and Decision Criteria
The VHP criterion for a Volcano Advisory includes the following: “Volcano is exhibiting signs of elevated unrest above known background level.” Assessing what constitutes elevated unrest is somewhat subjective and at Yellowstone requires consideration of both the type and level of activity, as well as the historic behavior of the volcanic and hydrothermal system. For example, during an earthquake swarm, activity may be above background levels but is not necessarily precursory to an eruption. This is in contrast to many stratovolcanoes that most commonly experience swarms or ground deformation as a direct result of magma ascent into the upper crust. At Yellowstone, however, earthquake swarms and caldera-wide ground deformation are relatively common events that can reflect regional tectonism, hydrothermal pressurization, or deep magma intrusion that appear to have occurred for thousands of years without ever leading to a volcanic eruption. Similar activity is noted at other large calderas around the world.
The following five guidelines will inform YVO decision making during future episodes of geological activity.
(1) YVO may choose to initiate an event response for an intense earthquake swarm, an episode of rapid ground displacement, a significant hydrothermal explosion that generates a large crater (tens to hundreds of meters in diameter), or a pronounced increase in heat or gas discharge.
(2) An alert level change from Normal to Volcano Advisory (with accompanying change of aviation color code from Green to Yellow) may be declared when monitoring parameters exceed known thresholds previously observed at Yellowstone. One example could be if an intense earthquake swarm (>500 earthquakes, some with magnitude > 4.5) is accompanied by a rapid change in ground displacement (for example, > 5 cm over 30 days) or a significant hydrothermal explosion. It is unlikely that a Volcano Advisory would be called for a single large earthquake and its sequence of aftershocks unless it had considerable accompanying pre-earthquake ground displacement and (or) hydrothermal explosions. It is possible that lesser activity could trigger announcement of a Volcano Advisory. It is also possible that in some situations YVO would choose not to issue a Volcano Advisory, unless all three criteria (an intense earthquake swarm, rapid ground displacement, and a significant hydrothermal explosion) were met. The Yellowstone hydrothermal system normally releases abundant CO2 and H2S, but does not normally release the high-temperature sulfur gas SO2, therefore, any significant release of SO2 would merit serious consideration for issuance of a Volcano Advisory.
(3) A change in alert level from Normal/Green to Advisory/Yellow will always trigger a formal event response by YVO.
(4) Changes in alert levels and color codes or declaration of an event response is the responsibility of the YVO Branch Chief, who will normally consult closely with the other coordinating scientists before making any such decision.
(5) Change from a higher alert level and color code (Advisory or Watch) to a lower alert level will be at the discretion of the YVO Branch Chief, in association with the event coordination committee. The criteria for such a decision are likely to vary widely, depending on the nature of the event.
It is unlikely that a Volcano Advisory would be called for a single large earthquake and its sequence of aftershocks unless it had considerable accompanying pre-earthquake ground displacement and (or) hydrothermal explosions.
It is possible that lesser activity could trigger announcement of a Volcano Advisory.
It is also possible that in some situations YVO would choose not to issue a Volcano Advisory, unless all three criteria (an intense earthquake swarm, rapid ground displacement, and a significant hydrothermal explosion) were met. The Yellowstone hydrothermal system normally releases abundant CO2 and H2S, but does not normally release the high-temperature sulfur gas SO2, therefore, any significant release of SO2 would merit serious consideration for issuance of a Volcano Advisory."
Originally posted by MsAmen
I do believe however, that this preperation for an event, merits more attention than it has recieved.
Ground Deformation Summary: On the basis of detailed analysis of the Yellowstone GPS data, the period of accelerated Yellowstone caldera uplift, beginning in 2004, appears to have notably decreased in the last several months toward long-term background levels.