Caldera chronicles: All the volcano news in one place with new report

Caldera chronicles: All the volcano news in one place with new report

New report

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory 2017 report, which includes a summary of earthquake, deformation and geyser activity as well as research investigations and other information, is available online at

Yellowstone is one of the best-monitored volcanic systems in the world, and cutting-edge research is constantly revealing new things about volcanic and earthquake activity in the region. But what is the best way to learn about this broad swath of results and insights into the volcanic system that makes up America’s first national park? Monitoring and research information comes from a number of different sources — remember that Yellowstone Volcano Observatory is made up of eight different institutions, from federal and state agencies to universities and nonprofit research organizations — and it might be difficult to find what you need when you need it. To better compile information about Yellowstone, the observatory is introducing a new product — an annual report.

The vision behind the annual report is simple: to provide a single document that summarizes activity and research that occurred during a given year. This can be of use to research scientists, who might need information about, for example, the numbers and types of earthquakes, but will also be of interest to the public, who might like to hear about geyser activity or recent research results.

Last week, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory 2017 Annual Report was published online. The report summarizes activity, including earthquakes and ground deformation, and also describes efforts to monitor water and gas chemistry, growth of hot spring terraces as mapped with aerial imagery, research into hydrothermal vents at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake, investigations of past lava flow eruptions and geyser eruptions.

For example, did you know that 3,427 earthquakes were located in the Yellowstone region during 2017? Of those, 2,440 earthquakes were part of the Maple Creek swarm, which took place during June-September of that year a few miles north-northeast of West Yellowstone. This was the second-largest (in terms of numbers of earthquakes) and second-longest (in terms of duration) swarm measured at Yellowstone (the 1985 Madison swarm was larger and longer).

In terms of deformation, did you know that the Norris area uplifted for most of 2017, but for a few weeks right at the end of the year that uplift switched to subsidence? The sudden and temporary change in Norris’ behavior might indicate rapid migration of subsurface water, which has been associated with previous changes in uplift and subsidence in that area.

And did you hear about Echinus Geyser? That thermal feature, in the Norris Geyser Basin, awoke from dormancy to experience nearly periodic water eruptions approximately every two hours during September-November 2017 before going back to sleep — another great example of the dynamic nature of geyser activity.

Our hope is to make the annual report a regular product of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. The 2017 report was unfortunately delayed by external factors, like the 2018 Kilauea eruption (which required the attention of the entire USGS Volcano Science Center for several months) and the January 2019 government shutdown. We are striving to put out future annual reports in a timely manner. The 2018 annual report is being assembled now (lots of geyser activity during that year to report on), and we expect to begin work on the 2019 report soon after the beginning of the new year.

We hope you find this new YVO product informative and interesting.

Yellowstone A large basin-shaped volcanic depression with a diameter many times larger than included volcanic vents; may range from 2 to 50 km (1 to 30 mi) across. Caldera Chronicles is a weekly column written by scientists and collaborators of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.


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