Digital News Report- An unusual string of earthquakes has struck the Yellowstone National Park area of Montana during the last few days, causing some seismologist to become alarmed and take a closer look at the area. Robert Smith, a professor of geophysics at the University of Utah stated that this is something that they “have to pay attention to,” and it could lead to something bigger. He noted that the Yellowstone Seismic Network, which smith directs, plans on monitoring the area closely in the coming days for public safety.
The largest earthquake this week was a magnitude 3.9 that occurred on Sunday in West Yellowstone at a depth of .2 miles, according to the US Geological Survey website. The most recent notable earthquake was a 3.3, which happened at 8:02am on the morning of December 31st. You can check the USGS website for up to date information.
The first large swarm occurred during December 27th and 28th in the 3.1 to 3.9 range. Activity dropped off to a series of 2.0 earthquakes for the next couple of days, but picked up again on New Years Eve. The University of Utah has stated that, “a total of more than 250 events large enough to be located have occurred in this swarm.” The area usually experiences 1000-2000 earthquakes a year.
Yellowstone National Park is home to the Yellowstone Caldera, which is a volcanic feature that is typically formed by the collapse of land after a volcanic eruption. This particular caldera measures at 34 by 45 miles and is often referred to as the Yellowstone Super Volcano. It’s last magmatic eruption was over 640,000 years ago, however a steam explosion occurred as recently as 13,800 years ago, which left a 5 kilometer diameter crater at Mary Bay on the edge of Yellowstone Lake.
Current volcanic activity is minimal, though there is a large chamber of magma just below the caldera’s surface. Many geothermal vents are scattered across the park, including the Old Faithful Geyser, which shoots thousands of gallons of boiling water over 100 feet in the air about ever 90 minutes.
An eruption of a caldera can have a catastrophic effect on civilization. It could be the largest volcanic event mankind has ever seen, but park spokeswoman Stacy Vallie has said that, “there doesn’t seem to be anything to be alarmed about.” Similar swarms of earthquakes have happened in the past, including over 3000 in 1985 and 70 small swarms between 1983 and 2008.