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Yellowstone Journal: Yellowstone is Sleeping Again… Or Is It?

YOWUSA.COM, 18-October-03
Dave Wright

As winter begins to meander its way into Yellowstone, all the businesses and tourist resorts in the Yellowstone area begin to prepare for the entourage of winter tourists and snowmobilers that will bring much needed revenue to support the livelihoods of those that live near the cash-strapped national park.  Because they need the tourist money, these same businesses and resorts appear to be putting pressure on the USGS, Yellowstone park officials and other government entities to give favorable seismic and geothermal reports to the public about Yellowstone.  The question here is this.  If our government entities, the local mainstream media, etc., give reports that everything in "boomtown" (pun intended) is hunky-dory, thereby succumbing to that pressure, does this mean that we should all just return to our daily activities as if nothing is happening?  On the other hand, does it mean that we should continue our vigilant scrutiny of these reports and of the conditions at Yellowstone?

Yellowstone Naps, So They Say

From all indications from the USGS, Yellowstone park officials and the lack of mainstream media interest, it appears that Yellowstone is beginning to return to its slumber, but is it? 

USGS, September 2003
September 2003 Yellowstone Seismicity Summary

During the month of September 2003, 80 earthquakes were located in the Yellowstone region…  Earthquake activity in the Yellowstone region is at background levels.

Yellowstone National Park, October 8, 2003

Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Suzanne LewisYellowstone National Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis announced today that effective October 9, 2003, at 8:00 a.m., portions of Norris Geyser Basin that have been closed since July 23, 2003, will reopen to the public.  Approximately 4,800 feet of the 5,800-foot temporary closure will reopen, with only the portion of the Back Basin trail from Green Dragon Spring to the Porkchop Geyser intersection remaining closed.  (There are approximately 12,500 feet of trails in the Norris Geyser Basin.)

However, is this information giving people a false sense of security? 

Yellowstone Eruption Concerns

Since the 4.4 earthquake in August of 2003, people have been inquiring if Yellowstone is safe to visit or is an eruption imminent?

From: "Brett Ferguson"  
Date: 2003/09/27 Sat AM 01:18:30 EDT
To: dave@yowusa.com
Subject: Yellowstone volcanic activity

Hi Dave,

I live in Idaho Falls, Id not too far from Yellowstone, I actually caught on to all the activity by talking to a friend at work well that night I was on your site and the topic was Yellowstone.  The other day while at work a customer came into the store, I found out that he is a guide in the park, we got to talking and he told me about all the closing of the backcountry.  He also told me of all the U.S. equipment that is "scattered all over the park."  If and when Yellowstone goes, hopefully I'll just be digging out of all the ash.  I have gotten a bunch of dust masks for my family.  I enjoyed hearing you on Coast to Coast the other week.  Keep up the work.

Idaho Falls, Id

Also, since the 4.4 earthquake, the USGS and park officials have been trying to quell the concerns of the public by providing reports that everything is occurring as predicted by the USGS. 

USGS, 24-September-2003
What's New at YVO?

"Bulge" Beneath Yellowstone LakeRecent articles in the press reported a "bulge" beneath Yellowstone Lake and have generated some concern about possible dangers for residents or visitors to the area.

Seismic images of the lake sediments in this area show that they were tilted, hinting that the region may have been pushed up or "inflated." The amount of inflation would be much less than the 100-foot height of the feature, but is currently unknown.  The images appear to indicate that the uplift is associated with accumulation of gas from Yellowstone's hydrothermal (hot water) system. Similar inferred gas accumulations were also noted elsewhere within the lake. Future research will assess the amount of uplift and its origin, whether by gas buildup or other potential mechanisms.

With favorable information provided by the USGS, Yellowstone Park officials are beginning to create plans on how to entice more tourists to visit Yellowstone.  One way is to show that big companies are willing to invest in the park for the betterment of the park and the enjoyment of the public.

Yellowstone National Park, October 10, 2003

This summer, Yellowstone National Park staff had the opportunity to enjoy another mode of transportation-through 10 pedal-powered bicycles donated by the Ford Motor Company, a total donation value of $9,490.

Are they just trying to ease our uneasiness with this information or are we experiencing the quiet before the storm.

Yellowstone Earthquake Frequency

If one looks at the trend in frequency of earthquakes (mostly micro-quakes) in and around the caldera, whose eruption 640,000 years ago may have caused its collapse, it becomes apparent that current seismic activity is higher on average than ever recorded in the park's history.  This includes the 1985 spike in quakes (3,552) ranging from less than magnitude 1 up to magnitude 4 on the Richter scale.

University of Utah, 16-October-2003
Seismology and Active Tectonics Research Group
Yellowstone Earthquake Epicenter Map Animations

Yellowstone Activity Map

The largest earthquakes in the park occurred before 1985 when earthquake activity was relatively low.  A quake measuring magnitude 7.5 occurred on 18 August 1959, while a magnitude 6.1 earthquake occurred on 30 June 1975.  Since then, quakes as large as magnitude 5 rarely have been recorded (one in 1992 and one in 1995). 

University of Utah, 16-October-2003
Seismology and Active Tectonics Research Group
Yellowstone Earthquake Epicenter Map Animations

Yellowstone Earthquake Epicenters

Yellowstone Earthquake Epicenters

Yellowstone Earthquake Epicenters

A corollary exists between the number of small earthquakes and the number of large quakes.  The years having the highest number of earthquakes tend to have smaller quakes and more micro quakes, while the years with the fewest earthquakes can sometimes have large quakes. 

Yellowstone Cycles

For example, 1985, 1999 and 2002 had between 2,000 and 4,000 earthquakes, but no quakes over magnitude 4.  1995 had 1,497 quakes and 1 quake of magnitude 5.  1975 had only 583 earthquakes, and yet a magnitude 6 quake occurred during that year.

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