Yellowstone Volcano Observatory Monthly Update: June 1, 2020

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Mike Poland, Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, gives an overview of activity at Yellowstone during May 2020.
 

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Length: 00:05:06

Location Taken: US

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Video edited by Liz Westby
 

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- Hi, everybody. I'm Mike Poland, the scientist in charge at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, and I'm coming to you from Yellowstone National Park for the June 1st, 2020, update. Yellowstone's open, so it was a good chance for us to come and do a little bit of fieldwork, do a little bit of maintenance on some of our monitoring stations. But we were also fortunate enough to catch an eruption of Steamboat Geyser. Now, Steamboat just erupted on May 31st at about 6:23 in the morning. It erupts, though, with a water phase that can be up to 300 or more feet high. That lasts for tens of minutes. And then, after the water phase, you get a very vigorous steam phase, and that's what we're seeing right now. The steam phase might last actually for just a couple of days, and it's like a jet engine that gradually diminishes, the geyser goes quiet, then it starts bubbling again and will go into a new eruptive cycle. So Steamboat's still as active as ever. It's been doing this for about two years now. Before we get to looking at the data over the past month, I wanted to show you a couple other neat things related to Steamboat, so follow me down the boardwalk and we'll have a look. This is Cistern Spring. Now, what's really spectacular about Cistern is that it seems connected to Steamboat Geyser. In the day or two following a Steamboat eruption, Cistern will start to drain. It's actually started to drain already. And, in another day or so, this is basically gonna be a dry spring. And then, over the ensuing days, it'll come back. So there's actually a deep connection here between Steamboat and Cistern, where the water that fills Cistern seems to somehow get sucked into the Steamboat system after eruptions. Pretty spectacular. All right, so let's go check one other thing that I wanna show you related to these Steamboat eruptions. Just follow me down the boardwalk. When Steamboat erupts, all that water has to go somewhere. In fact, it flows down this channel, and right across this bridge, you can see the water was so intense that it actually piled up debris on this bridge right here. Now, we actually have a temperature sensor that's in this channel right here as well. Some of you may have been to the YVO website and looked at the temperature data that indicates when Steamboat erupts. When that water comes down the channel, our temperature sensor that's in the channel gets a high temperature reading. And so this is where that temperature sensor is whenever you're looking at Steamboat eruption data on the Norris temperature logs. All right, well, pretty cool having this Steamboat eruption May 31st. Really neat to be able to catch it. Well, now, let's dive in and talk about what happened in Yellowstone during the month of May. Well, let's start by talking about activity at Steamboat Geyser. This is the temperature record from the sensor that's in the runoff channel for Steamboat. Now, initially in the month, it recorded just minor variations. That's just air temperature because the geyser was dry. And then there's increasing minor eruptive activity that culminates in a major eruption. You can see the increasing temperatures through that minor activity. Now, this cycle repeated itself five times, culminating in major eruptions on May 8th, May 14th, May 19th, May 23rd, and finally May 31st. So Steamboat remains just as active as ever. In terms of earthquakes, there were 288 quakes located by the University of Utah Seismograph Stations. The largest was a magnitude 3.1 on May 29th just five miles to the west of Norris Junction. In fact, there were three earthquake swarms that occurred in this area during the month. The first was May 4th to the 5th when 12 events were located, 39 events were located between May 22nd and 23rd, and, on May 29th to the 30th, there were 100 events that were located in this area. And there was a fourth swarm that occurred just to the north of West Yellowstone. That occurred May 9th to the 11th and involved 80 located events. This is pretty average seismicity for the Yellowstone region where most seismicity occurs in swarms. And, if we zoom out a bit, we can see that regional activity is continuing in Idaho and also in the Salt Lake City area. These are related to the tectonic earthquakes that occurred in March, and these are not related to the Yellowstone system. Finally, let's turn to deformation. This is the vertical deformation of the White Lake GPS station, which is located on the Sour Creek resurgent dome, over the past two years. It's a vertical deformation, and each dot is a daily measure of the vertical position. Downward trends mean subsidence and upward mean uplift. You can see, over this two years, the trends have been pretty standard, pretty consistent subsidence of about two to three centimeters per year. The same is true if we look at a site near Old Faithful on the Mallard Lake resurgent dome. Again, over the past two years, the trend has been subsidence of just a couple of centimeters per year. Finally, we go to the Norris Geyser Basin area where deformation has been a little bit more variable over the last couple of years. We can see uplift in late 2018, and then not a whole lot happening in 2019, subsidence at the end of 2019, and, since the beginning of 2020, there's basically been no net deformation, nothing really changing in the Norris area. So deformation patterns that we've been seeing over the past several months are continuing throughout May 2020. Well, that does it for the June 1st, 2020, update for the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Remember, if you have any questions, you can email us at yvowebteam, that's all one word, @usgs.gov. Stay safe, stay healthy, and we'll see you in July. Take care.