The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) was formed on 14 May, 2001 to strengthen the long-term monitoring of volcanic and earthquake unrest in the Yellowstone National Park region.
The observatory consists of a consortium of 9 organizations that join together to:
- monitor the volcanic system.
- increase our scientific understanding of the Yellowstone volcanic and hydrothermal system.
- disseminate data, interpretations and accumulated knowledge to the public.
The partnership provides opportunities for collaboration and a diversity of skill sets and research interest. Participating scientists have extensive experience in volcanology and monitoring of active geologic processes and hazards of the Yellowstone Plateau volcanic field. The research and monitoring work accomplished by these scientists is critical to not only understanding what is happening beneath the ground, but also to determining whether or not any hazardous activity may be imminent. In the event of a crisis, all of the partners would come together in Yellowstone National Park to assess potential outcomes and provide expert guidance to emergency managers.
Member agencies have unique responsibilities to YVO operations.
The observatory is led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) as part of the Volcano Hazards Program, which funds volcano monitoring throughout the United States. Yellowstone National Park contributes scientific, logistical, and managerial expertise to the observatory. The Yellowstone Seismic Network is operated by the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, through a cooperative agreement with the USGS. University of Utah professors, staff and students are long-time experts on the active Yellowstone system. On behalf of the National Science Foundation, UNAVCO, Inc. administers the GPS network, as well as borehole strainmeters and seismometers. Staff of the University of Wyoming and Montana State University undertake research within Yellowstone National Park and contribute to observatory planning teams. The geological surveys of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are charged with providing their respective citizens with geological information as pertains to hazards and resource management. All observatory member institutions can contribute to information gathering and assessments of ongoing geologic activity.
YVO follows protocols for responding to geologic hazards.
During times of increased geological activity, including earthquake swarms, increased ground uplift or anomalous hydrothermal activity, the observatory may utilize protocols outlined in USGS Circular 1351. Teams are formed from scientists and other staff within the various consortium agencies. The teams assess ongoing activity and provide their input to the USGS Scientist-in-Charge, who typically represents the observatory to land managers, emergency responders and the public.