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Yellowstone Volcano Observatory 2019 annual report

March 15, 2021

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) monitors volcanic and hydrothermal activity associated with the Yellowstone magmatic system, conducts research into magmatic processes occurring beneath Yellowstone Caldera, and issues timely warnings and guidance related to potential future geologic hazards. This report summarizes the activities and findings of YVO during the year 2019, focusing on the Yellowstone volcanic system. Highlights of YVO research and related activities during 2019 included deploying a portable seismic array near Steamboat Geyser in Norris Geyser Basin that recorded signals from seven major water eruptions; deploying a semipermanent Global Positioning System array; surveying soil carbon dioxide flux and temperature and operating an eddy covariance system to make continuous measurements; collecting and analyzing water samples from Shoshone Geyser Basin, the outlets of Shoshone and Lewis Lakes, Cinder Pool in Norris Geyser Basin, and several locations along Obsidian Creek; exploring and documenting a new thermal area near Tern Lake that was discovered in 2018; measuring specific conductance along major rivers to determine the chloride flux and total heat output of the Yellowstone hydrothermal system; conducting an inventory of hydrothermal features in Norris Geyser Basin and Upper Geyser Basin as part of a park-wide project that began in 2018; and sampling of tree rings and silica sinter deposits in the Upper Geyser Basin to better understand hydrothermal activity over time.

Continuing the pattern that started in 2018, Steamboat Geyser, in Norris Geyser Basin, erupted 48 times in 2019—a new record for a calendar year! Overall, however, noteworthy geyser activity in Yellowstone National Park was much reduced relative to the previous year. Thermal features on Geyser Hill in the Upper Geyser Basin had returned to their normal activity styles after Ear Spring’s September 2018 eruption and did not show any significant changes in 2019. Giant Geyser, also in the Upper Geyser Basin, did not experience any eruptions after March 2019. Seismicity was reduced relative to previous years, and deformation of Norris Geyser Basin, which started as uplift in 2015 and paused in late 2018, shifted to subsidence in late 2019. Overall subsidence of the caldera floor, ongoing since late 2015 or early 2016, continued at rates of a few centimeters (1–2 inches) per year.