Caldera Chronicles

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

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Filter Total Items: 196
Date published: January 4, 2021

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory year in review—what happened in 2020?

Although 2020 may not have been a great year for many of us, it was a pretty interesting year in Yellowstone.  With this first Yellowstone Caldera Chronicles article of the new year, let’s take the traditional look back at what happened in Yellowstone during the previous 12 months,

Date published: December 28, 2020

Hydrothermal explosions hidden beneath Yellowstone Lake’s serene waters

Although Yellowstone Lake itself may seem calm, the floor of the lake is littered with hydrothermal explosion craters.  Detailed studies are beginning to reveal the details of these explosions, like the one that formed Elliott’s Crater about 8000 years ago.

Date published: December 21, 2020

Looking Beneath the Surface: Scientific Drilling in Yellowstone National Park

Geology is inherently a three-dimensional science—it’s not just about what is at the surface, but what is beneath the surface as well. This is especially true at Yellowstone, where complex geology controls subsurface geyser plumbing systems. Fortunately, a long history of scientific drilling has pulled back the curtain on this hidden world!

Date published: December 14, 2020

Geysers, Bison, Bears Oh My, but What About Yellowstone’s Fossils Oh Why?

Yellowstone National Park is known for its unique hydrothermal features and array of animals and plants, but what about its fossils? From tiny invertebrates to large marine reptiles, Yellowstone’s boundaries include a wide range of paleontological resources that date back over 500 million years.

Date published: December 7, 2020

Another Earthquake Swarm Under Yellowstone Lake?

Have you noticed that there has been an increase in the number of earthquakes happening in Yellowstone over the last week?  This is because there is an active earthquake swarm occurring beneath Yellowstone Lake!  Although it looks impressive, it pales in comparison to past sequences, including the 2008–2009 Yellowstone Lake swarm.

Date published: November 30, 2020

The Blackfoot Volcanic Field of southeast Idaho—a result of interaction between the Yellowstone hotspot and tectonic activity

The Blackfoot Volcanic Field in southeast Idaho is a unique product of Yellowstone hotspot volcanism. While it is chemically similar to other volcanic rocks in eastern Idaho that are related to the hotspot, it is located far from the hot spot track—a testament to its entanglement with tectonic activity of the Basin and Range Province.

Date published: November 23, 2020

Autonomous sensors reveal surprises about the dynamic and shifting floor of Yellowstone Lake

We know from decades of observation that Yellowstone’s geyser basins are always changing, but what about thermal activity beneath the waters of Yellowstone Lake?  A team from the University of Minnesota deployed sensors on the lake floor and found that the environment is no less dynamic.

Date published: November 16, 2020

How Big Was That Earthquake?

Earthquake magnitudes may seem straightforward, but a lot goes into their calculation, and multiple methods can be used.  These methods must account for many complications, like the impacts of local geology on the amplitude of shaking.  In Yellowstone, a modern seismic network and experienced analysts make it possible to determine the magnitudes of even the smallest earthquakes!

Date published: November 9, 2020

How long does a big Yellowstone explosive eruption last?

Of the three enormous explosive eruptions from Yellowstone in the past 2.1 million years, the earliest and largest was the one that gave rise to the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff. The generalized perception of these colossal eruptions is that they are short-lived events lasting hours or days, but recent field observations indicate a more complicated story.

Date published: November 2, 2020

Capturing Yellowstone’s elusive gases

If you’ve been to Yellowstone, you’ve no doubt smelled some of the gases that come from depth and escape to the surface.  In addition to their noses, geochemists use sophisticated tools to sample these gases, and they use the result to better understand how Yellowstone works!

Date published: October 26, 2020

Going for a swim…at Old Faithful???

A swimming pool?  At Old Faithful?  Sounds crazy, but for nearly 40 years in the first half of the 20th century there was a geyser-heated bathhouse right next to the most iconic geyser in the world!

Date published: October 19, 2020

Yellowstone's tool-making lava flows

Yellowstone has a lot to offer visitors, from its world-famous hydrothermal features to its vast array of wildlife and breath-taking scenery. Yellowstone has also provided humans with another important resource for the last 11,000 years or more—obsidian.