Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Provisional maps of thermal areas in Yellowstone National Park, based on satellite thermal infrared imaging and field observations

September 19, 2014

Maps that define the current distribution of geothermally heated ground are useful toward setting a baseline for thermal activity to better detect and understand future anomalous hydrothermal and (or) volcanic activity. Monitoring changes in the dynamic thermal areas also supports decisions regarding the development of Yellowstone National Park infrastructure, preservation and protection of park resources, and ensuring visitor safety. Because of the challenges associated with field-based monitoring of a large, complex geothermal system that is spread out over a large and remote area, satellite-based thermal infrared images from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) were used to map the location and spatial extent of active thermal areas, to generate thermal anomaly maps, and to quantify the radiative component of the total geothermal heat flux. ASTER thermal infrared data acquired during winter nights were used to minimize the contribution of solar heating of the surface. The ASTER thermal infrared mapping results were compared to maps of thermal areas based on field investigations and high-resolution aerial photos. Field validation of the ASTER thermal mapping is an ongoing task. The purpose of this report is to make available ASTER-based maps of Yellowstone’s thermal areas. We include an appendix containing the names and characteristics of Yellowstone’s thermal areas, georeferenced TIFF files containing ASTER thermal imagery, and several spatial data sets in Esri shapefile format.