Yellowstone Earthquake Swarm of 2010 fizzling out?

January 27, 2010

Inside Yellowstone noted just three earthquakes in the Yellowstone swarm in a 24-hour period covering most of Saturday.

It wasn’t the End of the World as Old Faithful Knows It, after all.

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) suggests the swarm continues, however — but doesn’t suggest anyone should be too concerned about it.

As of January 26, 2010 9:00 AM MST there have been 1,360 located earthquakes in the recent Yellowstone National Park swarm. The swarm began January 17, 2010 around 1:00 PM MST about 10 miles (16 km) northwest of the Old Faithful area on the northwestern edge of Yellowstone Caldera. Swarms have occurred in this area several times over the past two decades.

There have been 11 events with a magnitude larger than 3, 101 events of magnitude 2 to 3, and 1248 events with a magnitude less than 2. The largest events so far have been a pair of earthquakes of magnitude 3.7 and 3.8 that occurred after 11 PM MST on January 20, 2010.

The first event of magnitude 3.7 occurred at 11:01 PM MST and was shortly followed by a magnitude 3.8 event at 11:16 PM. Both shocks were located around 9 miles to the southeast of West Yellowstone, MT and about 10 miles to the northwest of Old Faithful, WY. Both events were felt throughout the park and in surrounding communities in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

See the University of Utah Seismograph Stations for the most recent earthquake data and press releases. The team is working 24/7 to analyze and communicate information about the swarm. Seismograph recordings from stations of the Yellowstone seismograph network can be viewed online at: http://quake.utah.edu/helicorder/yell_webi.htm.

You can get the information from the horse’s mouth (Dragon’s Mouth?) — some enterprising earth sciences, geography or general science teacher can probably work up a great assignment for students to deal with the data and make sense from them.

Ground deformations in the Yellowstone Caldera, from satellite photos - Geology.com imageGround deformations in the Yellowstone Caldera, from satellite photos - Geology.com image

Ground deformations in the Yellowstone Caldera, from satellite photos, in 2005 - Geology.com image (This isn't really directly related to the earthquake swarm, but it's a cool image.)

Update, March 12, 2011: This post has been mighty popular over the last week.  Can someone tell me, in comments, whether this post was linked to by another site?  Why the popularity all of a sudden — even before the Japan earthquake and tsunami?  Please do!


Poachers kill massive grizzly in Montana

August 24, 2009

Ralph Maughan’s Wildlife News reports that Maximus, an 800-pound grizzly bear thought to be Montana’s second largest, was illegally killed recently.

The poacher shot the bear about four weeks ago.  A reward has been offered for information leading to the capture of the poacher.

Can you tell a grizzly from a brown bear?  Chart from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Can you tell a grizzly from a brown bear? Chart from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Update, 1-30-2010: The chart linked to above has disappeared in a website redesign.  Below is a crude representation of the chart I made from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife information sheet on grizzlies, here.

How to tell a grizzly from a black (.pdf download)

Grizzly bear/black bear identification chart, adapted from USFWS by Ed Darrell, Millard Fillmore's Bathtub

Grizzly bear/black bear identification chart, adapted from USFWS by Ed Darrell, Millard Fillmore's Bathtub


Disaster in Yellowstone Park: 20 years after the fires, it’s healing

September 17, 2008

High school students weren’t alive when Yellowstone burned in 1988. Do you remember?

NASA infrared satellite photograph of Yellowstone fires in 1988

NASA infrared satellite photograph of Yellowstone fires in 1988

It was a conflagration that made hell look like good picnicking. 1988 was a particularly dry summer, and hot. Lightning and human carelessness ignited fires across western North America. Five huge fires raged out of control, and burned huge swaths out of forests in Yellowstone National Park that probably hadn’t seen fire in 80 years, maybe longer.

The Salt Lake Tribune featured several stories about the fires and Yellowstone’s recovery today, “Yellowstone: Back from the ashes,” how wildland firefighting changed, a great chart on fire succession stages, and another chart on the effects of the fire on larger animals in the Yellowstone system.

Old Faithfull erupts against background of smoke from 1988 fires - NPS photo by Deanna Marie Dulen

Old Faithfull erupts against background of smoke from 1988 fires - NPS photo by Deanna Marie Dulen

The 1988 fires made history in several ways; it was the first time so many fires had burned simultaneously. Ultimately some of the fires merged into even greater conflagrations. The fires forced the shutdown of tourism and other activities in the Park. Inadequacies in fire fighting equipment, staffing and policies were highlighted and displayed in newspapers and on television for weeks, forcing changes in policies by cities, states and the federal government.

Some good came out of the fires. Much undergrowth and dead wood had choked off plant diversity in some places in the Park. The fires opened new meadows and offered opportunities for some species to expand their ranges.

Scientifically, a lot of information came out of the fires. The mystery of when aspen would seed out was solved — new aspen seedlings appeared in areas where the fires had sterilized the ground with extremely high temperatures that seemed to trigger the seeds to germinate.

Our visits in 1989 offered a lot of opportunities to look at very bleak landscapes.

Yellowstone National Park in 1989, a year after the big fires - Copyright 1989 and 2008, Ed Darrell

Yellowstone National Park in 1989, a year after the big fires - Copyright 1989 and 2008, Ed Darrell

Recover of the forested areas began rather quickly, but will take time to cover over all the scars of the fires.

Other resources:


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