When will the next large earthquake occur in Yellowstone?

Earthquakes cannot be predicted yet, but modern surveillance conducted with seismographs (instruments that measure earthquake locations and magnitudes) and Global Positioning System (GPS) instruments that measure slow ground movements help scientists understand the state of stress in the Earth's crust. Those stresses could trigger earthquakes as well as magma movement.

Yellowstone lies within a tectonically active region of the western United States. Large earthquakes have occurred there in the past, like the 1959 M7.3 Hebgen Lake earthquake just west of Yellowstone National Park, and they will occur again in the future, but it is impossible to know when.

 

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Date published: January 21, 2014

The Yellowstone Volcano: Past, Present and Future

What is all the buzz about in the Yellowstone area? Is it really dangerous? On January 23rd Jake Lowenstern, Scientist-in-Charge of Yellowstone Volcano Observatory will explain what is happening now with earthquakes, ground uplift, and steam explosions.

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Date published: May 14, 2001

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory Established

 The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS), Yellowstone National Park and the University of Utah have signed an agreement to establish the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory to strengthen long-term monitoring of earthquakes and the slumbering volcano beneath Yellowstone National Park.

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House damage in central Oklahoma from a magnitude 5.6 earthquake in 2011
February 23, 2017

House damage in central Oklahoma from the magnitude 5.6 earthquake on Nov. 6, 2011. Research conducted by USGS geophysicist Elizabeth Cochran and her university-based colleagues suggests that this earthquake was induced by injection into deep disposal wells in the Wilzetta North field. Credit: Brian Sherrod, USGS

2016 (approx.)

Dr. Kenneth Pierce studied the geology and geomorphology of the greater Yellowstone area for nearly his entire career with the U.S. Geological Survey. From 1965 to present, Dr. Pierce has mapped glacial deposits, pioneered Quaternary dating techniques, conducted research on the Yellowstone Hot Spot, studied the geothermal areas, explored the geology of archaeological sites around Yellowstone Lake, and led field trips into the Park. In this video, Dr. Pierce discusses his work at Yellowstone Lake and how he was able to detect subtle inflation and deflation (or “heavy breathing”) attributed to the subsurface movement of geothermal fluids. Dr. Pierce also talks about his work advising Montana State University students. 

September 14, 2014

Robert B. Smith of the University of Utah has been collaborating with USGS scientists on Yellowstone geologic topics since the 1960’s. In this interview Bob describes nuances of the Yellowstone volcano story. He shares details of his past and present work and explains how the University of Utah and USGS have a long history of working together on Yellowstone geology.

Earthquake damage from the 1959 Hebgen Lake event in the Yellowston...
1969 (approx.)

This house fell into Hebgen Lake during the 1959 earthquake and floated along the shore until it came to rest here. The owner of the house, then-70-year-old Mrs. Grace Miller, escaped only after kicking out her front door and leaping a 5-foot-wide ground crack as her house dropped into the lake.