The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) was formed on 14 May 2001 to strengthen the long-term monitoring of volcanic and earthquake unrest in the Yellowstone National Park region. Beginning in 2013, the observatory consists of a consortium of 8 organizations that join together: to monitor the volcanic system, to increase our scientific understanding of the Yellowstone volcanic and hydrothermal system, and to disseminate data, interpretations and accumulated knowledge to the public.
The partnership provides for improved collaborative study and monitoring of active geologic processes and hazards of the Yellowstone Plateau volcanic field, site of the largest and most diverse collection of natural thermal features in the world and the first National Park.
According to Dr. Jacob B. Lowenstern, former YVO Scientist-in-Charge, the observatory has improved the overall efforts to monitor Yellowstone's extraordinarily large and long-lived volcanic system. "This agreement is a natural evolution of our collective work over the years to track and study Yellowstone's unrest. There is no increased threat of eruptive activity at Yellowstone to cause concern at this time. We hope to use YVO to share even more of what we are learning with the public, Park visitors, and nearby residents, and to be in a better position to provide warning of any future hazardous activity."
The observatory is led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) as part of the Volcano Hazards Program, which funds volcano monitoring throughout the United States. Yellowstone National Park contributes scientific, logistical, and managerial expertise to the observatory. The Yellowstone Seismic Network is operated by the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, through a cooperative agreement with the USGS. University of Utah professors, staff and students are long-time experts on the active Yellowstone system. UNAVCO, Inc. administers, on behalf of the National Science Foundation, the facilities of the Plate Boundary Observatory, including the GPS network, as well as borehole strainmeters and seismometers. Staff of the University of Wyoming undertake research within Yellowstone National Park and contribute to observatory planning teams. The geological surveys of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are charged with providing their respective citizens with geological information as pertains to hazards and resource management. All observatory member institutions can contribute to information gathering and assessments of ongoing geologic activity.
During times of increased geological activity, including earthquake swarms, increased ground uplift or anomalous hydrothermal activity, the observatory may utilize protocols outlined in USGS Circular 1351. Teams are formed from scientists and other staff within the various consortium agencies. The teams assess ongoing activity and provide their input to the USGS Scientist-in-Charge, who typically represents the observatory to land managers, emergency responders and the public.