Yellowstone Volcano: Super eruptions 'are very rare' says expert

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Stretching over the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, the Yellowstone National Park is one of the US’s most seismically active regions. Yellowstone Park is home to the Yellowstone volcano caldera, which has formed during the course of multiple cataclysmic eruptions in the last 3.1 million years. And although there has been no significant volcanism at the park in some 70,000 years, Yellowstone continues to be rocked by thousands of earthquakes every single year.

According to the latest report published by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) branch of the USGS, September was no exception to the rule.

Seismograph stations dotted around the park tracked and continue to track some 283 earthquakes in the month of September.

Mike Poland, the Scientist-in-Charge of the YVO, has now revealed some of these earthquakes continued into October, revealing a number of swarms that lasted weeks at a time.

The geophysicist shared the monthly update on the USGS’s YouTube channel, where he said seismicity had “picked up a bit” towards the end of the month.

The strongest of these quakes was a magnitude 3.2 tremor on September 8, which was struck the Pitchstone Plateau in southwest Yellowstone, about 15.6 miles south of Old Faithful geyser.

However, the figures were still within the norms for Yellowstone.

Anywhere between 700 and 3,000 earthquakes occur in Yellowstone every single year, none of which are an indication of a brewing eruption.

Among the 283 tremors, the YVO tracked four distinct swarms – a sequence of events that occur in a specific location.

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Dr Poland said: “The largest swarm had 153 earthquakes and still counting that started on September 16 and is ongoing just here a few miles to the east of Madison Junction.”

Another ongoing swarm of 17 earthquakes began on September 28 and struck to the northeast of West Yellowstone.

Dr Poland added: “This is typically the most seismically active area of the park.”

USGS geologists have also recorded a swarm of 16 earthquakes under Yellowstone Lake, the biggest body of water in the park.

The swarm began on September 28 and was still ongoing in early October.

The fourth swarm was detected on the Pitchstone Plateau, when 14 earthquakes struck starting on September 8.

Earthquake swarms account for about 50 percent of all seismicity in the park and are not something to lose sleep over.

The USGS stressed: “Yellowstone earthquake activity remains at background levels.”

During September, the USGS also recorded two eruptions of the world-famous Steamboat Geyser, on September 11 and 28, respectively.

The geyser’s total number of eruptions this year now stands at 15.

The USGS said: “Eruptions are irregular and much less frequent than during the previous three summers, which may indicate that the geyser is trending toward a period of quiescence.

“This is typical behaviour for Steamboat, with the geyser experiencing few-year periods of frequent eruptions separated by years to decades of very few eruptions.”

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