News from the Yellowstone Caldera: Earthquakes


Yellowstone Lake, site of swarm of earthquakes, December 27-30, 2008

Yellowstone Lake, site of swarm of earthquakes, December 27-30, 2008

Yellowstone National Park holds more than 70% of the world’s geysers, and rumbles with earthquakes and eruptions all the time.  It is, after all, rather in the middle of the great Yellowstone Caldera, a supervolcano that probably will erupt with astounding destruction someday.

Massive, super eruptions in the caldera occur about every 600,000 years (take THAT Don McLeroy!).  The last eruption was about 640,000 years ago, which means that we may be a bit overdue for the sort of eruption that would make the destruction of Krakatoa look like a firecracker compared to a nuclear bomb.

So, of course, some people worried a bit with the cluster of earthquakes under Yellowstone Lake in the past two days. A swarm is a better description, perhaps — 250 little quakes, all under 3.5 on the Richter Scale.

It is unusual in the number, but they are all small.

Watch that space!

(See update for December 31, here: ‘Yellowstone not likely to blow’)

USGS Regional map for earthquakes, Yellowstone Region

USGS Regional map for earthquakes, Yellowstone Region

According to the USGS system, at the time of this post, earthquakes are occurring frequently around Yellowstone, with about 35 in the past 24 hours (I copied the chart to preserve the historical data; click on the link to get more current data):

MAG UTC DATE-TIME
y/m/d h:m:s
LAT
deg
LON
deg
DEPTH
km
LOCATION
MAP 2.4 2008/12/30 00:36:39 44.510 -110.384 0.2 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.4 2008/12/29 21:25:15 44.525 -110.360 2.0 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.6 2008/12/29 21:18:51 44.521 -110.362 2.2 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.8 2008/12/29 21:18:36 44.522 -110.359 2.1 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.9 2008/12/29 20:38:25 44.514 -110.381 2.1 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.3 2008/12/29 20:38:04 44.511 -110.385 2.3 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.0 2008/12/29 20:26:29 44.520 -110.355 2.2 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.9 2008/12/29 20:14:26 44.498 -110.364 2.3 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.4 2008/12/29 20:13:31 44.508 -110.359 2.2 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.2 2008/12/29 19:56:46 44.522 -110.365 1.2 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.2 2008/12/29 19:53:50 44.511 -110.377 2.2 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.1 2008/12/29 19:46:13 44.515 -110.386 2.4 59 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.7 2008/12/29 19:44:50 44.525 -110.373 0.0 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.7 2008/12/29 19:40:27 44.511 -110.379 2.5 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.4 2008/12/29 19:37:07 44.502 -110.366 1.8 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.2 2008/12/29 19:36:08 44.521 -110.385 2.0 59 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.7 2008/12/29 19:35:27 44.511 -110.385 2.4 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.9 2008/12/29 19:29:38 44.513 -110.381 0.5 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.5 2008/12/29 19:28:55 44.515 -110.381 0.0 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.8 2008/12/29 19:26:21 44.519 -110.370 2.0 60 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.5 2008/12/29 19:24:43 44.520 -110.342 2.3 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.3 2008/12/29 19:14:49 44.521 -110.369 1.8 60 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.2 2008/12/29 18:47:45 44.523 -110.371 2.1 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.4 2008/12/29 18:40:00 44.533 -110.359 4.8 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.1 2008/12/29 16:32:12 44.494 -110.360 2.4 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.6 2008/12/29 16:31:55 44.491 -110.360 2.3 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.2 2008/12/29 16:15:28 44.480 -110.363 2.3 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.5 2008/12/29 14:58:37 44.486 -110.354 1.3 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.7 2008/12/29 10:25:18 44.523 -110.371 2.4 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.8 2008/12/29 09:14:04 44.527 -110.376 0.3 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.4 2008/12/29 08:57:55 44.527 -110.378 0.5 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.4 2008/12/29 08:28:24 44.527 -110.382 0.4 59 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.0 2008/12/29 05:30:35 44.517 -110.372 1.0 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.3 2008/12/29 05:30:04 44.477 -110.349 6.5 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.7 2008/12/29 05:29:23 44.489 -110.354 4.2 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.4 2008/12/29 05:23:36 44.516 -110.361 6.4 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.9 2008/12/29 04:29:18 44.522 -110.385 1.0 59 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.8 2008/12/29 04:25:53 44.514 -110.370 0.1 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.6 2008/12/28 23:57:56 44.521 -110.371 1.4 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.0 2008/12/28 23:08:25 44.491 -110.390 1.7 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.1 2008/12/28 19:55:17 44.511 -110.353 0.7 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.0 2008/12/28 19:32:15 44.511 -110.356 2.7 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.8 2008/12/28 15:37:40 44.514 -110.359 0.0 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.2 2008/12/28 09:25:14 44.508 -110.364 1.9 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.2 2008/12/28 09:23:57 44.511 -110.361 0.4 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.9 2008/12/28 07:16:13 44.513 -110.374 2.0 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.5 2008/12/28 07:15:18 44.495 -110.359 0.0 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.5 2008/12/28 06:37:41 44.492 -110.356 2.6 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.0 2008/12/28 06:37:20 44.497 -110.379 2.1 60 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.9 2008/12/28 05:28:49 44.498 -110.383 2.3 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.9 2008/12/28 05:28:05 44.485 -110.371 2.5 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.8 2008/12/28 05:26:14 44.484 -110.359 2.0 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.2 2008/12/28 05:26:03 44.470 -110.355 5.2 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.3 2008/12/28 05:24:39 44.489 -110.359 4.1 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.8 2008/12/28 05:23:54 44.489 -110.354 2.5 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.9 2008/12/28 05:21:16 44.480 -110.344 4.0 64 km ( 40 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.7 2008/12/28 05:20:10 44.494 -110.379 2.4 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.6 2008/12/28 05:19:11 44.492 -110.372 2.2 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.9 2008/12/28 05:15:56 44.502 -110.366 0.3 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.6 2008/12/28 00:08:50 44.493 -110.354 0.4 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.3 2008/12/27 22:30:03 44.498 -110.358 4.3 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.5 2008/12/27 22:28:53 44.500 -110.368 2.1 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.8 2008/12/27 22:27:36 44.499 -110.367 2.5 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.0 2008/12/27 21:28:06 44.500 -110.362 3.5 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.6 2008/12/27 21:22:08 44.495 -110.372 2.6 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.1 2008/12/27 21:08:49 44.496 -110.370 2.0 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.2 2008/12/27 20:26:27 44.505 -110.364 2.4 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.5 2008/12/27 20:17:33 44.488 -110.357 4.1 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.3 2008/12/27 18:56:35 44.484 -110.367 0.5 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.0 2008/12/27 18:23:07 44.495 -110.364 2.8 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.0 2008/12/27 18:21:36 44.493 -110.362 7.2 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.2 2008/12/27 17:01:46 44.484 -110.373 2.4 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.7 2008/12/27 17:01:07 44.490 -110.366 1.2 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.6 2008/12/27 16:30:54 44.498 -110.362 2.5 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT

At the site of the Deseret News (published in Salt Lake City), one commenter noted he is from Texas, a commented he was safely out of the way.  One might do well to remember that volcanic activity in the Yellowstone often affects life well outside the area.  Ashfall Beds State Historical Park in Nebraska, for example, marks a prehistoric waterhole where dozens of mammals died from ash from a volcano that erupted 10 million to 12 million years ago — a volcano in Idaho, south of the Yellowstone Caldera, and considerably smaller.

While danger is probably slight right now, and this swarm most likely does not presage anything of great note, one should not forget the power of volcanic eruptions from supervolcanoes, like the Yellowstone Caldera.

Update, December 30, 2:20 p.m. Central:

Resources:

Great photo for the heck of it:

Aerial view of Grand Prismatic Spring, Wikimedia photo (all text in caption from Wikimedia); Hot Springs, Midway & Lower Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park. The spring is approximately 250 by 300 feet (75 by 91 m) in size.  This photo shows steam rising from hot and sterile deep azure blue water (owing to the light absorbing overtone of an OH stretch which is shifted to 698 nm by hydrogen bonding [1]) in the center surrounded by huge mats of brilliant orange algae and bacteria. The color of which is due to the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoid molecules produced by the organisms. During summertime the chlorophyll content of the organisms is low and thus the mats appear orange, red, or yellow. However during the winter, the mats are usually dark green, because sunlight is more scarce and the microbes produce more chlorophyll to compensate, thereby masking the carotenoid colors.

(Caption from Wikimedia) Aerial view of Grand Prismatic Spring; Hot Springs, Midway & Lower Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park. The spring is approximately 250 by 300 feet (75 by 91 m) in size. This photo shows steam rising from hot and sterile deep azure blue water (owing to the light absorbing overtone of an OH stretch which is shifted to 698 nm by hydrogen bonding) in the center surrounded by huge mats of brilliant orange algae and bacteria. The color of which is due to the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoid molecules produced by the organisms. During summertime the chlorophyll content of the organisms is low and thus the mats appear orange, red, or yellow. However during the winter, the mats are usually dark green, because sunlight is more scarce and the microbes produce more chlorophyll to compensate, thereby masking the carotenoid colors.

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10 Responses to News from the Yellowstone Caldera: Earthquakes

  1. [...] “News from the Yellowstone caldera:  Earthquakes”, December 29, 2008 [...]

    Like

  2. Ed Darrell says:

    So, Dani El — idle threats from the Lord? Or maybe you misunderstood?

    We can’t know the time, you know.

    But, it seems you’ve got a lot of difficulty getting this prophecy thing right, yes?

    http://forums.randi.org/showpost.php?p=5172838&postcount=109

    Like

  3. Dani' El says:

    Ed,
    A Threat from the Lord, yes.

    And the fulfillment of prophecy of Luke 17 27-38.

    Like

  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Oh, come on! They say “be prudent.” That’s not a warning. I wouldn’t interpret it as that, especially as the group that issued the press release don’t appear to have jobs.

    Like

  5. noseycow says:

    Although the ‘swarm’ has calmed down geologists have NOW issued a ‘warning’

    http://carmenscafe.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/american-geologists-warn-be-prudent/

    Like

  6. Ed Darrell says:

    A post on one of the more interesting areas of the world, geologically, and what do we get in response?

    Dani’el — are we to interpret that as a threat?

    Like

  7. Dani' El says:

    Luk 17:28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
    Luk 17:29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
    Luk 17:30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

    With Obama inviting a sodomite bishop to offer prayers at his inauguration, and more.
    The USA is going to be destroyed by fire and brimstone soon.

    I am a messianic Jew living in San Fransodom, Calif.
    I am the “Lot” of verse 29.
    On the day I leave SF for Israel. God will destroy the wicked cities of SF and LA, the end times Sodom and Gomorrah.

    Soon.

    To all God’s elect in the western US.
    REMEMBER LOT’S WIFE!

    Like

  8. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsus/Maps/US2/43.45.-111.-109.php

    http://www.seis.utah.edu/req2webdir/recenteqs/Maps/Yellowstone_full.html

    Here are the pertinent links to Yellowstone EQ reports. The quakes continue today and it’s not just that there are so many quakes, all but a few quakes are within a mile or two of each other and at every depth between 7.2 km and the surface suggesting pressurized movement along the same chimney right down to the magma chamber at ~ 8 km. The recorded movements may be from heated water or magma but even if only a single magma vent is established, it could depressurize the magma chamber to the point of explosive release of gases from the magma to create the super volcano effect across the whole 70 km caldera.

    Beyond the global volcanic winter devastating agriculture and the deaths/disease inflicted on all breathing animals from ash inhalation, I am concerned that water pumps cooling nuclear reactors will not survive for long with significant ash contamination in feed water and there should be a plan to dissipate latent heat in reactor cores and spent fuel storage pools given that the heat from radioactive decay will have to be actively dissipated for months after reactor shut down. The only apparent method of preventing the eventual melting and release of the nuclear fuel is to create enough reserve clean water storage to allow long term/continuous containment vessel blow down, (temperature-lowering depressurization of the reactor core by releasing radioactive steam into the containment structure and then into the air), and replacement of evaporated water from spent fuel storage. Although nuclear plants are required to have this reserve water storage, it is already being used to cool spent fuel rods not originally intended for onsite storage and is therefore not available for blow down replacement as that would allow spent fuel to melt. New covered reserve water pools capable of sustaining heavy wet ash loads must therefore be built across the U.S. to accommodate this ash scenario and these reserve pools would have to be considerably larger for longer term blow down and spent fuel cooling. If the nukes are not secured, just add 600 years for the major fission fragments to decay over 20 half lives, (450,000 years for Plutonium to decay to acceptible levels), to the multiple decades of devastation caused by the ash cloud. Katrina would be seen as a comparative lunchtime picnic in a light breeze.

    Like

  9. Jude says:

    Interesting. And yet, in spite of seeing that Discovery channel movie about the Yellowstone supervolcano, I’m not worried. The possibility of being chased from my home in Colorado by ash just seems too remote and ultimately, unimaginable. At least I have cousins in Mexico who’d take me in if it came to that.

    Like

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