Caldera Chronicles

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


Filter Total Items: 219
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.

Date published: May 3, 2021

The 2020 Yellowstone Volcano Observatory annual report is now available!

Interested in knowing more about Yellowstone geyser, seismic and deformation activity in 2020?  And the results of research conducted by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory?  Look no further—the 2020 Yellowstone Volcano Observatory annual report is now online!

Date published: April 26, 2021

The spectacular columns of Sheepeater Cliffs

A small side road on the highway between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction leads to Sheepeater Cliffs, a spectacular example of columnar jointing in a lava flow.

Date published: April 19, 2021

The Queen’s Laundry—the oldest historic building in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is dotted with historic places.  But did you know that the oldest building that is still standing, built 140 years ago, was constructed because of a thermal spring? 

Date published: April 12, 2021

Yellowstone’s caldera, resurgent domes, and lava flows—volcanic giants hiding in plain sight

While geysers and hot springs are relatively easy to find in Yellowstone, what about the caldera, and the lava flows and the two massive resurgent domes that formed after the caldera erupted?  They’re there.  You just need to know where to look.

Date published: April 5, 2021

Yellowstone’s Cool Thermal Areas

Yes, some of Yellowstone’s thermal areas are cool—as in, no longer hot.  Cooling is part of the “life cycle” of a thermal area.  And just as it’s important to keep track of where thermal areas warm up, it’s also important to keep track of where they are cooling down.

Date published: March 29, 2021

Arid southwest landscapes dotted with the bright lights of a …. lava fountain!?

Volcanoes in Iceland, Italy, and Guatemala have put on displays that are captivating audiences worldwide. But did you know that the same sort of activity could also occur in the southwestern United States?