There is a long and pretty well written article in today's Billings Gazette newspaper about a report released last week by Yellowstone Park officials
on more than 24 natural resource indicators that affect the park’s ecological and environmental stability including climate change and wildlife
Billings Gazette Story
The report also noted the park’s geological activity. The ground near the White Lake recording station has swelled 25 centimeters — more than 10
inches — since 2004, while more than 3,200 earthquakes rattled the park in 2010 — the largest concentration of tremors recorded since 1985.
Knowing what it all means, however, remains something of a mystery.
“Yellowstone seems to breathe,” said Yellowstone’s chief geologist, Hank Heasler. “That’s the best way to describe it. It goes through
cycles of uplift and subsidence. That detailed pattern of ground deformation, well, we’re still in the process of figuring that out.”
Heasler goes on to make a pretty good point about earthquake activity. He says there are not more quakes now than say 30 years ago. But, the equipment
to pick them up is much better. Heasler compares it to getting more phone calls now than 30 years ago. It's technology.
The park is "breathing." For instance, the ground near the White Lake recording station has swollen more than 10 inches since 2004. The Norris
Junction area rose around 11 centimeters between 1996 and 2002 while at the same time the parks central caldera sank. The big question is why?
“There might be a slow inhalation in one area and an exhalation in another,” Heasler said. “We need more data to really confirm the exact
pattern and cause. But there are two great ideas out there that try to explain the deformation.”
The 2 theories being thrown around by scientists are:
It could be from the vast geothermal system that lies under the park. Much like a blister under your skin, pushing on one part makes another part
It could be the magma itself. Molten rock rising is pushing the ground up with it.
Personally, I myself think it's probably a combination of the 2. Especially depending on where exactly you are in the park.
Something pretty interesting in the article notes the quake swarm in the early months on 2010. There were around 2,500 quakes over a 4 month period
then, the largest of which was a 3.8.
Added all together, their total magnitude was only equivalent to a 4.4.
The chief geologist doesn't see "the big one" as imminent. While they are only just starting to get an understanding of what is actually going on, he
feels there is no evidence to show there is any organized buildup.
“Our monitoring not only allows us to see subtle changes, but it can also be used to predict a large eruption, or even a minor one. The bigger the
eruption, the more indicators you’ll have and the farther in advance you’ll have them.”
Heasler said it’s not impossible that Yellowstone could experience a small eruption with little notice. The elements are there — earthquake
swarms, ground deformations, thermal venting and volcanic gases.
He believes the buildups are not enough for a big eruption, and what is there is all over the place. There is no organization to it. It is possible
though for there to be a smaller eruption with little to no notice. The ironic part of that though is the elements pointing to the potential for a
smaller eruption are there. The earthquake swarms, ground deformations, thermal venting and volcanic gas releases. Exactly the same arguments being
used against an impending super eruption!
And we all know...Yellowstone is 40,000 years overdue for the "big one!"
All links used are from the same article today in the
edit on 27-11-2011 by webpirate because: formatting