Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

River Chemistry and Solute Flux in Yellowstone National Park

June 16, 2007


The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) was established to 'To strengthen the long-term monitoring of volcanic and earthquake unrest in the Yellowstone National Park region'. Yellowstone National Park is underlain by a voluminous magmatic system overlain by the most active hydrothermal system on Earth. Tracking changes in water and gas chemistry is of great importance because anomalous fluxes might signal one of the earliest warnings of volcanic unrest.

Because of the tremendous number, chemical diversity, and large aerial coverage of Yellowstone's thermal features, it remains daunting to monitor individual features that might serve as proxies for anomalous activity in the hydrothermal system. Sampling rivers provides some advantages, because they integrate chemical fluxes over a very large area and therefore, river fluxes may reveal large-scale spatial patterns (Hurwitz et al., 2007). In addition, based on the application of the chloride-enthalpy method (Fournier, 1979), quantifying chloride flux in rivers provides an estimate of the total heat discharge from the Yellowstone volcanic system (Norton and Friedman 1985; Fournier, 1989; Friedman and Norton, in press).

Intermittent sampling of the large rivers draining Yellowstone National Park began in the 1960's (Fournier et al., 1976) and continuous sampling has been carried out since water year (1 October - 30 September) 1983 excluding water years 1995 and 1996 (Norton and Friedman, 1985, 1991; Friedman and Norton, 1990, 2000, 2007). Between 1983 and 2001 only Cl concentrations and fluxes were determined. Starting in water year 2002, the concentrations and fluxes of other anions of possible magmatic origin (F-, Br-, HCO3- , and SO42-) were also determined, and several new sampling sites were established (Hurwitz et al., 2007). The ongoing sampling and analysis of river solute flux is a key component in the current monitoring program of YVO, and it is a collaboration between the U.S. Geological Survey and Yellowstone National Park.

Publication Year 2007
Title River Chemistry and Solute Flux in Yellowstone National Park
DOI 10.3133/ds278
Authors Shaul Hurwitz, Sean Eagan, Henry Heasler, Dan Mahony, Mark A. Huebner, Jacob B. Lowenstern
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Data Series
Series Number 278
Index ID ds278
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Hazards Program; Yellowstone Volcano Observatory