In Yellowstone ‘pulsing’ an area the size of Chicago: what to expect

In northwestern Wyoming, in the heart of the national Park “Yellowstone”, is a bubbling Caldera is the scar from the giant volcanic eruption, which occurred 640 thousand years ago. Park with an area of 3 472 square miles (8 992 square kilometers), covering the Caldera, full of geological wonders. Here grow out of the ground geysers and boiling hot springs. They all move under the action of magma and fiery lava raging under the stone surface, writes National Geographic.

В Йеллоустоне 'пульсирует' территория размером с Чикаго: чего ожидать

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In the basin of the Norris geysers to the North-West of the Caldera is more than 500 hydrothermal features. Bubbling geysers vary from day to day, but also a much larger transformation. For more than two decades, the area is large than Chicago, rose and descended several inches. In hyperactive volcanic region, such as Yellowstone, it is difficult to determine the exact cause of any such movement. But the recent publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth may help to explain why this piece of land “breathes”.

“In all likelihood, for a very long time Norris was the center of strain” — says the researcher and geologist from the volcano Observatory the us Geological survey and one of the authors of a new study Daniel Jurisin.

In order to simulate possible changes that occur beneath its surface, scientists have used the information for ten years of observations from satellites, radar and GPS basin of Norris Geyser. In the late 1990-ies in this area was the exit of magma to the outside. As she froze, increased its pressure, the earth rose, an underground water came to the surface. When magma or water was left on the surface in another place, the earth fell. Today magma can be just a mile from the surface.

A new study proves that a super-volcano that created the Caldera of Yellowstone, thrown up last 640 thousand years ago, likely will not erupt in the near future. Instead, these geological movements can help to explain why the Steamboat geyser Park, the most highly active geyser in the world erupting at a record pace since March 2018. The researchers also suggest that changes under basin geyser Norris could mean slightly increased risk of hydrothermal explosions that occur in the pool.

The Geology of the Yellowstone complex, especially the hard research of mineral resources. Scientists agree that the explanation of the rising and falling of the earth is magma.

“We are only beginning to understand how dynamic Pool of geysers Norris,” says Michael Poland, researcher at the Yellowstone Observatory for the study of the volcanoes of the United States, which was not involved in the new study.

The notorious Pool of geysers Norris

The basin of the Norris geysers is the oldest geothermal area of Yellowstone, the heat from which comes for over 115 thousand years. It is also the hottest area where the register 459 degrees Fahrenheit (+237,222 Celsius) at a depth of a thousand feet or so below the surface.

Steamboat geyser in the region illustrates how radically and unexpectedly may change this boiling area of Yellowstone. Geyser with a height of 400 feet (121,9 m) shoots seldom, with intervals between major eruptions from four days to half a century. But in March 2018, the geyser erupts once a week. 32 eruption in 2018, has set a record that was beaten in 2019, when the geyser erupted 48 times.

Although the hyperactivity of this geyser has attracted the attention of the public, scientists are more interested to study the geological movement of the territory. Between 1996 and 2004, an area of 18 miles rose by 4.7 inches (11.9 cm) and then declined by 2.8 inch (7.1 cm) in the period from 2005 to 2013. Then, in the period from late 2013 to early 2014, the region suddenly started to get up again with a speed of 5.9 inch (14.9 cm) per year. This is the highest rate of rise, ever observed in Yellowstone national Park.

In March 2014, in the Basin of Norris geyser, an earthquake of magnitude 4.9, which apparently was stopped by a sudden rise. The land gradually vacillated between lowering and lifting until the beginning of 2019. Now this area is 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) higher than in 2000.


To track deformation of the Basin geyser Norris used data from the radar and the GPS satellites. Geologists suspect that the tremors began between 1996 and 2001, when the magma rose and was at a depth of only 9 miles (14.5 km) from the earth’s surface. This Pool is located on fault lines, known as the corridor of the Norris-Mammoth.

“Two zones of geological faults intersect each other, is a place where magma has found its way to the surface,” says Jurasin.

This was the cause of the rise of the territory in the period from 1996 to 2004. When the magma cooled, dissolved in it the liquid began to be squeezed to the surface. This process reduced the internal pressure of solidified magma, this mass started to deflate like a leaky balloon that probably caused the lowering of the land in the period from 2005 to 2013.

Stamped because of these processes on the surface of the underground water repeatedly got in rocky crevices under rocks. Which the ground again began to rise. This cycle has been elusive to the observations of scientists, and they were not able to identify it and to chronicle events. The new model is “a likely hypothesis, but not definitive,” says Poland. Perhaps in the rise of the earth’s surface the fault of the water that is going under craggy rocks after the snow melts. And when she leaves, the landscape is again degraded.

Geysers and possible hydrothermal explosions

Scientists suspect that magma is now located directly under the surface of the Pool of geysers Norris. Craters of hydrothermal explosions that occurred thousands of years ago, can be found throughout the region. They are formed due to the fact that the boiling underground water dramatically come to the surface, relieving pressure, if the rock is crack. This event, which is almost impossible to predict.

At any point in the Basin of Norris geyser can occur new hydrothermal explosion, although major explosions are rare. If the water accumulate near the surface of the Pool, the likelihood of hydrothermal explosions may be a little higher. But the cracks in rocks is complex and unpredictable. Any small changes that cannot be detected, continuously increase or decrease the probability of an explosion.

The probability of a geothermal explosion remains a highly contentious issue, because scientists do not recommend to close the region for visitors.

The researchers also wonder whether the accumulation of magma and groundwater to be connected with the recent record number of eruptions of Steamboat. In the 1960s and early 1980s, the geyser had similar bursts of activity may also associated with the cycles of the “breathing” of the earth in the Pool.

But if so, why is this geyser puts on a show when several other stay calm?

Jurisin said that the link between hyperactivity Steamboat and raising the level of magma is indirect, but the “time match”. In the future he and his colleagues hope to study the underground waters come to the surface to see if the chemical elements are of magmatic origin.

However, the fact that the researchers were able to create a theory that would explain these major changes, proves that accumulated over decades of data and modern scientific methods have proved very useful. “Twenty years ago it would have been impossible,” says Jurasin.





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