As a professional geologist, one of the things that has perplexed me the most about the situation in Yellowstone, is that there are numerous eruption
indicators being recorded and yet none in a position of authority has yet raised any concern to the public.
The main authority as pertains to early warning of potential seismic events and volcanic eruptions is the United States Geological Survey, or USGS.
The USGS has long been monitoring Yellowstone park due to its very unique geological setting and recognized early on the potential geological hazard
that the SuperCaldera posed. Today, the USGS coordinates with the US Parks and Wildlife service to keep tabs on the Yellowstone caldera through a very
extensive and expensive network of remote sensing equipment, GPS ground movement recorders, EDM, seismographs, and numerous other items.
If there is an organization that is in a position to completely assess the hazard posed by the Yellowstone caldera, and the potential eruption
possibilities, it is the USGS.
However, not only has the USGS NOT issued any statements regarding the potential eruption hazards of Yellowstone, much less any kind of eruption
warning, they are actively downplaying the potential hazards, and appear to be debunking any possibility of eruption.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) - Geothermal activity is increasing in a Yellowstone National Park geyser basin and the bottom of Yellowstone
Lake is bulging, but scientists say there is no impending major eruption.
Now, why would the USGS want to not only misinform the public about the likely dangers posed by such a massive potential eruption, and thereby
endanger the public through lack of information, but to actively debunk those that do wish to inform the public of these dangers?
Around 1980, the USGS issued an eruption warning for the Mammoth Lake caldera in California:
During May 1980 a swarm of earthquakes hit the area, 4 of these had a magnitude 6, and that marked the onset of a period of unrest that continues up
As illustrated in the ... some 20 small to moderate eruptions have occured along the Inyo-Mono Craters in the last 5.000 years. Does the new activity
means that we can expect another eruption now? According to USGS the possibility is compareable with odds for a great (magnitude 8) earthquake
occuring on the coast of California, and odds are smaller than for a major (magnitde 7 or greater) earthquake in L.A. or S.F. area.
However, when this eruption warning was issued, and it became public knowledge that the eruption referenced had a window of error in excess of 50
years, well... the USGS had some problems coming.
The basis of these problems revolved around the massive drop in property values in the affected area of the eruption warning. Several property
developers who lost significant finances sued the USGS.
A new conservative leadership installed at USGS decided that silence was the best option.
Now, what are the possibilities of an upcoming eruption at Yellowstone?
If the park were ready to blow its top, there would be several signs that magma was moving toward the surface, and earthquakes would be more
frequent and stronger. The ground, while often rising and falling in Yellowstone, would most likely gradually rise and the chemistry of many geysers
Lets review some facts, shall we?
Large geothermally driven bulge under Yellowstone Lake.
Apparent fishkills in yellowstone lake.
Mass animal migrations out of Yellowstone (keep in mind that wildlife is a very important indicator to seismic activity)
Average ground surface bulging up to 70 cm in a year.
Bare ground temperatures in excess of 200 degrees f.
Water temperature in yellowstone lake (normally constant temp due to year round springs) rising up to 30-40 degrees above normal.
Recent spate of Magnitude 3-4 earthquakes centered in or near Yellowstone Park.
Current water and air monitoring of sulfur and mercury, both are volcanic contaminants, and precursors to volcanic activity.
I would point out that many reports indicate that a large number of geysers (which function by infiltrating groundwater deeper, closer to the magma
where it is superheated and then expelled in a high temp water/steam jet) have essentially dried up and turned to strictly steam vents. A number of
geysers were reported in places that were never before active with geysers, which then similarly dried up and turned into steam vents.
My interpretations of these facts, as previously mentioned on this thread, is that a large body of magma, likely the parent magma plume in the main
magma chamber, is moving around, and likely expanding, getting closer to the surface. The sudden lack of liquid water in these geysers I find very
disturbing, as it means that the subsurface rocks are becoming superheated, and superheating the water to strictly vapor. In addition, it appears that
the superheating is taking place at a faster rate than groundwater infiltration, therefore, there is a net drop in the groundwater levels locally in
the active areas.
Another very disturbing thing that I expect but have no current information on is the lake acidity. (Currently, Kukla is making an on-site inspection,
and I hope to get some information from him to confirm this)
As there is obvious evidence of a large bulge under Yellowstone lake, and reports of a massive fishkill there, I suspect that the bottom of the lake
may be fractured, and allowing infiltration of sulfur compounds (gaseous) into the lake. When sulfur gases are dissolved in water, it will produce
sulfuric acid. However, owing to the size and volume of Yellowstone lake, minor leaks that have always been known to occur would be inconsequential,
and likely be readily diluted.
However, based on the reports of fishkills, strong sulfur odor associated with the lake, I suspect a very large release of sulfur gas into the lake. I
have asked Kukla to perform a field test, if he gains access to the lake, to test for the current water PH. If it returns as highly acidic, that would
indicate not only a sulfur release into the lake, but one of massive proportions. This could be construed as a precursor to eruption.