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= Yellowstone National Park
= Caldera
Yellowstone Monthly Update
Monday, October 01, 2018 1:54 PM US/Mountain
Current Volcano Alert Level: NORMAL
Current Aviation Color Code: GREEN
 
YVO's Mission
The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory provides timely monitoring and hazard assessment of volcanic, hydrothermal, and earthquake activity in the Yellowstone Plateau region.

Features   (archive)
Quick Links

"Shocking" stories about measuring deformation in Yellowstone
October 15, 2018

Maintaining instruments in Yellowstone requires constant sleuthing, as well as resourcefulness. The vast distances, limited access, and harsh winter weather all pose particular challenges to keeping data flowing day after day and season after season. Specialized state of health monitoring tools combined with prior knowledge helps engineers remotely diagnose any problems before they arrive onsite, to be as efficient as possible with limited resources. But sometimes the damage is so extensive that entire stations need to be replaced. What can cause such havoc? Bison? Wind? Snow? Yes, but lightning can wreck equipment so completely that nearly all of the instrumentation needs to be replaced!

In the latest edition of Yellowstone Caldera Chronicles, read all about how UNAVCO engineers keep deformation monitoring stations running at Yellowstone all year long!
Recent Changes to Thermal Features Closes Part of Upper Geyser Basin
September 19, 2018

In the past week, there have been changes afoot to the thermal features on Geyser Hill in Yellowstone's Upper Geyser Basin. Ear Spring, a normally docile hot pool, had a water eruption that reached 20 to 30 feet high on Saturday, September 15, 2018. The eruption ejected not only rocks, but also material that had fallen or been thrown into the geyser in years past, like coins, old cans, and other human debris. The last known similar-sized eruption of the spring was in 1957, although smaller eruptions occurred as recently as 2004. As a result of these changes, Yellowstone National Park has closed portions of the boardwalk.


Undoubtedly, the most famous thermal feature of Yellowstone National Park's Upper Geyser Basin is Old Faithful. Geyser Hill is located just across the Firehole River from Old Faithful and hosts dozens of other hot springs, geysers, and fumaroles. Hydrothermal activity at several features on Geyser Hill has changed since the eruption of Ear Spring. Most notably, a new feature has formed west of Pump Geyser and north of Sponge Geyser directly under the boardwalk. The feature erupted overnight between September 18th and 19th and continues to pulse water as a small spouter. An approximately 8-foot diameter area of surrounding ground is "breathing" - rising and falling by about 6 inches every 10 minutes. Several other thermal features are more active than usual, including geysering and boiling of Doublet Pool and North Goggles Geyser.

Changes in Yellowstone's hydrothermal features are common occurrences and do not reflect changes in activity of the Yellowstone volcano. Shifts in hydrothermal systems occur only the upper few hundred feet of the Earth's crust and are not directly related to movement of magma several kilometers deep. There are no signs of impending volcanic activity. There has been no significant increase in seismicity nor broad-scale variations in ground movement.

The outcome of the current changes on Geyser Hill in the Upper Geyser Basin is uncertain. The two most likely possibilities are:

  1. The area of thermally heated ground may expand and continue to cause changes in hydrothermal activity that persist for years, much like the thermal activity of 2003 in the Norris Geyser Basin. This could necessitate rerouting of the current boardwalk configuration.
  2. A small hydrothermal explosion could occur in the area, forming a crater a few feet across and ejecting rocks and hot water up to a distance of hundreds of feet, much like that which occurred at Porkchop Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin in 1989.
Although potential impacts to Old Faithful are unknown, Geyser Hill and Old Faithful have separate hydrothermal plumbing systems and behave independently.


Steamboat Counter
May 14, 2018

Steamboat Geyser, in the Norris Geyser Basin, appears to have entered a phase of more frequent water eruptions, much like it did in the 1960s and early 1980s. Although these eruptions do not have any implications for future volcanic activity at Yellowstone (after all, geysers are supposed to erupt, and most are erratic, like Steamboat), they are nonetheless spectacular, and hopefully many people will have a chance to see Steamboat in eruption during the summer of 2018.

To keep track of the geysering, we will keep an updated count of Steamboat water eruptions on this page. So far in 2018, Steamboat has erupted 23 times (all times below are local):

  • March 15, 5:37 AM
  • April 19, 4:30 PM
  • April 27, 6:30 AM
  • May 4, 11:50 PM
  • May 13, 3:54 AM
  • May 19, 9:49 PM
  • May 27, 7:33 PM
  • June 4, 9:05 AM
  • June 11, 1:06 AM
  • June 15, 4:55 PM
  • July 6, 1:38 PM
  • July 20, 10:36 PM
  • August 4, 2:10 PM
  • August 22, 11:44 AM
  • August 27, 9:30 PM
  • September 1, 11:21 PM
  • September 7, 10:20 AM
  • September 12, 4:23 AM
  • September 17, 9:38 AM
  • September 24, 5:18 AM
  • September 30, 6:55 PM
  • October 8, 10:25 AM
  • October 15, 2:12 PM

Would you like to become a Steamboat watcher? If so, there are three datasets to keep an eye on:

  1. Seismic station YNM, in the Norris museum, is the first indicator of an eruption. The webicorder for the station is located here. Look for a thick seismic trace that lasts 30-60 minutes.
  2. About 90 minutes after eruption, increased discharge can often be seen at the Tantalus stream gage. You can get that information here. Scroll down to the plot "Discharge, cubic feet per second" and look for a spike and subsequent decay, but be careful...precipitation can cause spikes too! Rainfall information is given in another plot on that page.
  3. Each night, temperature data from a sensor in the Steamboat drainage channel is downloaded and posted on line. A sudden and short-lived (minutes-long) spike in temperature indicates a Steamboat eruption. To view those data, go to the YVO monitoring map and zoom in on the Norris area. Hover over any of the thermometer symbols to see their names, and click on the one labeled "Steamboat" to see data from various time periods past.

Have fun! You might also check out the Steamboat page at geysertimes.org for information about Steamboat activity.


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Quick Facts
Location: Wyoming and Montana
Latitude: 44.615° N
Longitude: 110.6° W
Elevation: 2,805 (m) 9,203 (f)
Volcano type: Caldera
Composition: basalt to rhyolite
Most recent eruption: 70,000 years ago—lava, current—hydrothermal explosions
Alert Level: Normal (2018-10-01 19:54:07)