Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Exploration and discovery in Yellowstone Lake: Results from high-resolution sonar imaging, seismic reflection profiling, and submersible studies

January 1, 2003

Discoveries from multi-beam sonar mapping and seismic reflection surveys of the northern, central, and West Thumb basins of Yellowstone Lake provide new insight into the extent of post-collapse volcanism and active hydrothermal processes occurring in a large lake environment above a large magma chamber. Yellowstone Lake has an irregular bottom covered with dozens of features directly related to hydrothermal, tectonic, volcanic, and sedimentary processes. Detailed bathymetric, seismic reflection, and magnetic evidence reveals that rhyolitic lava flows underlie much of Yellowstone Lake and exert fundamental control on lake bathymetry and localization of hydrothermal activity. Many previously unknown features have been identified and include over 250 hydrothermal vents, several very large (>500 m diameter) hydrothermal explosion craters, many small hydrothermal vent craters (∼1–200 m diameter), domed lacustrine sediments related to hydrothermal activity, elongate fissures cutting post-glacial sediments, siliceous hydrothermal spire structures, sublacustrine landslide deposits, submerged former shorelines, and a recently active graben. Sampling and observations with a submersible remotely operated vehicle confirm and extend our understanding of the identified features. Faults, fissures, hydrothermally inflated domal structures, hydrothermal explosion craters, and sublacustrine landslides constitute potentially significant geologic hazards. Toxic elements derived from hydrothermal processes also may significantly affect the Yellowstone ecosystem.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2003
Title Exploration and discovery in Yellowstone Lake: Results from high-resolution sonar imaging, seismic reflection profiling, and submersible studies
DOI 10.1016/S0377-0273(02)00503-6
Authors L. A. Morgan, Wayne C. Shanks, D.A. Lovalvo, S.Y. Johnson, W. J. Stephenson, K. L. Pierce, S.S. Harlan, C. A. Finn, G. Lee, M. Webring, B. Schulze, J. Duhn, R. Sweeney, L. Balistrieri
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Series Number
Index ID 70025839
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center