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Monthly update of activity at Yellowstone Volcano for March 2022

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Happy 150th birthday to Yellowstone National Park! The Park is truly a wonderland, and a place of continuous inspiration and learning. Listen, as Yellowstone Volcano Observatory Scientist-in-Charge Mike Poland recounts some of its unique history and provides an update of recent earthquakes, ground deformation, and geyser activity.

Did you know, that a thermophilic bacterium from a Yellowstone hot spring is helping the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic?

In 1966, Professor Thomas Brock of Indiana University and undergraduate student Hudson Freeze collected microbial mat samples from Mushroom Springs (located in Yellowstone’s Lower Geyser Basin). In the lab, Freeze and technician Sally Murphy worked to isolate the bacterium Thermus aquaticus strain YT-1, that was thriving at 71.5°C (160 °F).

From this sample, the bacterium was studied through the 1970s and 1980s, with the basis of the patent for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) founded on the themo-stable enzyme taq polymerase from T. aquaticus YT-1.

So today, when a sample is collected from a person suspected to be infected by COVID-19, viral RNA is extracted from the sample, converted into DNA, and then replicated with a PCR machine so that even the smallest amount of RNA in the sample can be detected and quantified. Without PCR, the race to count the infected and develop a vaccine would have been dramatically hindered.


During February 2022, the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, responsible for the operation and analysis of the Yellowstone Seismic Network, located 83 earthquakes in the Yellowstone National Park region. The largest event of the month was a minor earthquake of magnitude 2.8 located about 3 miles north-northeast of Lake in Yellowstone National Park on February 8.

There was one swarm of 23 earthquakes that occurred during February 11-12 in the area about 2 miles south-southwest of Old Faithful. Earthquake sequences like these are common and account for roughly 50% of the total seismicity in the Yellowstone region.

Ground Deformation

No significant changes in ground deformation patterns were observed in data from continuous GPS stations over the past several months. No deformation is apparent in a station near Norris Geyser Basin, and stations within Yellowstone Caldera continue to subside at an overall rate of 2-3 cm (1 in) per year. This subsidence has been ongoing since 2015.


Steamboat Geyser continues to be active in 2022, although the frequency of its eruptions has decreased dramatically compared to the preceding 3 years. The geyser experienced one major water eruption in the past month, on February 14—the second major water eruption of the year.




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