Caldera Chronicles

Caldera Chronicles is a weekly article written by U.S. Geological Survey Yellowstone Volcano Observatory scientists and colleagues.


Filter Total Items: 201
Date published: July 26, 2021

“Land of the burning ground”: Yellowstone’s Native American history and traditions

We sometimes think of Yellowstone as an untouched landscape, but humans have been present in the area for over ten thousand years!  The history and traditions of Native Americans in Yellowstone are as rich as the landscape itself.

Date published: July 19, 2021

Yellowstone’s sibling in the southern hemisphere: Taupō, New Zealand

Yellowstone is not the only large caldera system in the world.  Indeed, caldera systems can be found all over the planet!  In New Zealand, the Taupō caldera system shares many similarities with Yellowstone—a history of large eruptions, geysers and hot springs, and even earthquake swarms and ground deformation, some of which might be related to magmatic intrusions.

Date published: July 12, 2021

An outlier of Yellowstone's thermal areas: the travertine of Mammoth Hot Springs

Early explorers during the separate Washburn, Hayden, and Hague expeditions of the 1870s were astonished by the massive terraces and pools of hot-spring limestone, better known as travertine, at Mammoth Hot Springs—a chemical oddity that is quite different from other Yellowstone thermal areas.

Date published: July 5, 2021

The long journey of water from Yellowstone’s hot springs and geysers to different oceans

Yellowstone’s hot spring waters ultimately flow for thousands of miles before entering the ocean. But waters enter two different oceans—the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

Date published: June 28, 2021

The day that Porkchop Geyser exploded

Small hydrothermal explosions—steam blasts—are common at Yellowstone, occurring every year or two.  Most happen in the backcountry and are not observed by people.  In 1989, however, Porkchop Geyser blew up right in front of several observers on an otherwise sunny September afternoon.

Date published: June 21, 2021

What causes earthquake swarms at Yellowstone?

Earthquake swarms are common at Yellowstone, but why do they occur?  Are they driven by magma migration?  Water?  Steady creep along faults?  All three are possibilities, and tracking the style of the earthquakes can reveal the causes.

Date published: June 14, 2021

Yellowstone’s unconformity—over 60 million years of missing geologic history!

Visitors to Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park might have noticed an odd geological feature near the top of Mount Everts—an unconformity! This juxtaposition of different rocks serves as a marker of missing history in the Yellowstone region.

Date published: June 7, 2021

Henry Wood Elliott and the first map of Yellowstone Lake

Henry Wood Elliott was a dedicated conservationist and explorer who, in 1871, helped create the first bathymetric map of Yellowstone Lake. Unlike many of his contemporaries, however, he declined to leave his name on any feature in Yellowstone. Geologists now honor Elliott’s legacy by referring to a very large explosion crater beneath Yellowstone Lake as Elliott’s Crater.

Date published: May 31, 2021

Yellowstone’s gravest threat to visitors (it’s not what you might think)

Yellowstone National Park is truly a wonder of nature, globally appreciated for its untamed beauty. Visited by millions each year, tourists travel from all over the world to witness its unique environment. However, while enjoying Wonderland, visitors should also keep safety in mind.

Date published: May 24, 2021

Travertine: Yellowstone’s Hydrothermal Timekeeper

Standing on the boardwalk next to any of Yellowstone’s hot, steamy, vigorously bubbling hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles, or geysers, you may be struck by the sheer amount of energy that powers this system, night and day. But how long have these features been active?  To address this question, geologists can turn to the “clock” that is frozen within hydrothermal travertine deposits.

Date published: May 17, 2021

YVO’s 2021 field season is underway!

For half the year, Yellowstone is largely inaccessible to geologists, buried under snow and ice and subject to fierce storms.  By May, however, improved weather and melting snow opens the park to field work.  The 2021 field season promises to be a productive one for the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.

Date published: May 10, 2021

A do-it-yourself guide for estimating the height of geyser eruptions

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory scientists investigate many aspects of the Yellowstone volcanic system, including the incredible geysers that are a highlight of any visit to the park. After witnessing a geyser eruption, many visitors begin to wonder about some aspects of these incredible phenomena.  One question --“how tall was that?” -- can be answered by anybody with a few simple tools.