May 31, 2006
BILLINGS, Mont. A new Park Service study
shows air quality in four of six categories is worsening at Yellowstone
The study compiled air-quality trends dating
back to 1995 at national parks across the country.
One pollutant on the rise in Yellowstone
is ground-level ozone, which can cause respiratory problems and threaten plant
But the Park Service says the levels in
Yellowstone aren't high enough to pose a risk and don't exceed any national
Still, Yellowstone had more categories in
which air quality was getting worse than any other park in the country.
Other air-quality categories that
worsened at Yellowstone were ammonium, sulfates and nitrates. Two categories
measuring visibility showed improvements.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved
Small earthquake reported in south area of Yellowstone
May 20, 2006
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK -- An early morning earthquake -- the strongest in
the park this year -- barely rattled anyone from their slumber in southern
Yellowstone this week, the park geologist said Friday.
The magnitude 3.8 earthquake occurred at 4:16 a.m. Thursday, and several
employees near the park's southern entrance reported feeling it, Hank Heasler
said. One person told him about moderate shaking in a trailer, though nothing
was knocked over, and another reported waking up around that time, but not
knowing why, Heasler said.
A park spokesman said there were no reports of damage from the quake, which was
roughly 20 miles southeast of West Thumb, and 31 miles southeast of Old
Faithful. Heasler said there was nothing to indicate it was a precursor to a
Earthquakes in Yellowstone aren't uncommon. The area is the one of the most
seismically active in the continental United States, and hundreds, if not
thousands, of quakes occur here each year, Heasler said. Heasler defined
the Yellowstone area as the park and a roughly 10-mile zone beyond it.
It's distribution, not numbers, that catch officials' attention, he said.
"If they were all in one area or over a day, that would get us
excited," he said.
Copyright © 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
3-D Images Reveal Yellowstone Plume
May 19, 2006 — Researchers have captured
three-dimensional images of the gigantic plume of molten rock welling up
from the depths of the Earth under Yellowstone National Park.
Using seismic tomographic imaging, which pieces together data from
scores of seismic stations around Yellowstone, geologists have created a
3-D image showing where the rock has melted to become magma. The magma
reveals itself to seismologists because it slows down seismic waves from
distant earthquakes that pass through it.
"This result is from a focused study deploying a dense array of 80
seismographs around Yellowstone," reports Robert Smith, a Yellowstone
geologist at the University of Utah.
The seismographs were installed from 2000 to 2002, explicitly to look
for such a plume under the park. The results were published in the April
issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research.
What's Under Yellowstone?
Map of Yellowstone Region
The Yellowstone/Eastern Snake River Plain volcanic
system, showing earthquake epicenters with black circles. Massive plumes of
molten rock lie beneath the surface.
The multi-million-year-old plume is the source of heat that caused a
series of giant eruptions at Yellowstone, the last one 600,000 years ago.
There is no evidence another eruption is on the way.
Oddly enough, the image shows the plume does not rise from the
Earth’s core-mantle boundary at 1,700 miles (2,700 km) down.
Instead, the column of magma appears out of nowhere some 310 to 400
miles (500-650 km) down, under the Montana-Idaho border northwest of
Yellowstone National Park. From there it tilts to the southeast as it
rises through the mantle until it’s directly under Yellowstone.
Smith explains the tilt is probably caused by a "wind" or
current in the mantle through which the plume is rising. But just what
melted the rock 310 to 400 miles down remains a big unknown, said
geologist Eugene Humphreys of the University of Oregon.
"It’s tilted, which is interesting," said Humphreys. But
how it got that hot, he said, "is still a mystery."
A clue might be found to the northwest, a region with 40,000 cubic
miles of volcanic Columbia River Flood Basalts. That rock poured out of
the earth to cover parts of Idaho, Oregon and Washington at the same time
the Yellowstone plume was melting the crust and making a series of earlier
"Yellowstones" in a line to the southwest from today’s
Yellowstone, all the way to Nevada.
Because the North American plate is still moving southwest at
Yellowstone and the plume shows no sign of abating, the next place to
erupt would most likely be to the north of the par
In fact, some researchers have already found evidence that the switch
is underway – although no mega-eruptions are due anytime within the next
Supervolcanoes Give Yellowstone Clues
Life Found in Yellowstone
Utah officials not confident public informed about Nevada test
By JENNIFER TALHELM
April 29, 2006
WASHINGTON (AP) - Members of Utah's congressional delegation said they're
not satisfied that the government has provided enough information about the
safety of its plans to detonate a 700-ton explosive in the Nevada desert.
Congressional aides on Wednesday toured the site where the non-nuclear
explosion - called "Divine Strake" - will take place, and they grilled
federal officials about plans for the June 2 test.
Utah residents and officials are concerned that the resulting mushroom
cloud will shake loose radioactive soil from past nuclear weapons tests at the
Nevada Test Site, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Utah officials said Thursday they want the government to do more to
convince them that the test should go forward.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asked for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency
and the Energy Department to hold a public briefing for southern Utah residents.
"I'm not confident the public has enough information about
this," Hatch said in a statement Thursday. "My staff learned safety
details from test officials that could have helped the public if they had been
released long ago, and the good people downwind of the site need to hear
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, still is waiting for information about whether
Divine Strake is an indication that the government might again build new nuclear
weapons and test them in Nevada.
Matheson said Pentagon budget documents, other materials and even recent
interviews with officials mention plans for new nuclear weapons. He and others
are concerned that the June 2 test is in preparation for a low-yield nuclear
A letter he sent to the agency on April 7 asking about its nuclear plans
and other concerns is still unanswered, he said.
"The information from yesterday's briefing is not reassuring,"
he said in a statement Thursday.
While Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, believes every precaution is being
taken to ensure the test is done safely, he wants a personal briefing from the
National Nuclear Security Administration, his spokeswoman MaryJane Collipriest
"This personal briefing will help him determine whether the test
should proceed," she said.
Cheri Abdelnour, a spokeswoman for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency,
said she could not immediately respond to specific questions about the Utah
She said the test will help the agency design a more effective
conventional weapon to penetrate hard and deeply buried targets.
The agency has said its environmental assessment determined the explosion
should not disturb surface contamination at the Test Site.
But Hatch and others have said officials have done a poor job
communicating that to Utah residents downwind of the site, who are still
suffering illnesses resulting from their exposure to Cold War-era nuclear tests.
Hatch also still wants more information about the underground effects of
the explosion, his spokesman Peter Carr said.
His office has raised concerns about inconsistencies in information from
the government about the distance between the Divine Strake explosion site and
where previous underground nuclear weapons tests took place.
"I don't want any testing to harm Utahns again, and I'm still
concerned about a bomb test so near to past nuclear test sites," Hatch
said. "I'm skeptical about taking the word of test officials, given what
happened during the last nuclear tests. We'll also take a look at some outside
data and expertise, too, before deciding if this test can be conducted
Test blast linked to nuke weapons
Las Vegas Sun
LAS VEGAS -- Contrary to the Pentagon's earlier denials, a government
official overseeing a test explosion at the Nevada Test Site in June says the
blast could help with the development of nuclear weapons.
The detonation could simulate "a number of weapon concepts,"
said Doug Bruder, director of the counter-weapons of mass destruction program
for the Defense Department's Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
"It could be nuclear or advanced conventional," he said.
"A charge of this size would be more related to a nuclear weapon."
Bruder made his remarks during a tour of the Test Site with reporters
The purpose of the test remains an issue in Washington and Nevada as the
Defense Department continues to prepare the site for a June 2 blast of 700
tons of conventional explosives.
The Pentagon has denied that the test is intended to aid research into
"bunker buster" nuclear weapons _ essentially smaller-scale weapons
designed to penetrate and destroy facilities built deep below ground.
In keeping with those earlier denials, Bruder said the blast, known as
Divine Strake, was not specifically designed to produce a nuclear weapon and
"does not replicate any existing or planned nuclear weapon."
As part of the test, researchers plan to measure the damage the blast
does to a tunnel dug beneath the explosion site. Those results will help the
Pentagon determine the effectiveness of an explosion of that magnitude,
whether produced by a conventional or a nuclear weapon.
Last year, Congress forbade any testing intended to advance nuclear
weapons. Lawmakers cut funding from the Energy Department's budget for a
700-ton explosion at the Test Site for use in developing a nuclear bunker
Money for the test is now in the Defense Department budget for a
conventional weapons program.
Scientists and others opposed to nuclear proliferation have said that
the new test is simply an attempt to defy the congressional ban and advance
Defense Department research into nuclear weapons.
The blast itself would be with a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel
oil, the same material that brought down the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building
in Oklahoma City in 1995. The amount that destroyed the office building was
The size of the June 2 bomb is among the evidence scientists cite in
arguing that the test could only serve to advance nuclear weapons research.
The U.S. military has no way to deliver a 700-ton conventional bomb to a
target, other than to truck it into place.
Officials have emphasized that no nuclear materials would be involved in
the test, although a group including the Western Shoshone and residents
downwind of past nuclear explosions at the Test Site are suing, arguing that
the test could kick up radioactive dust. Government officials insist there is
no possibility that radioactive materials would be disturbed by the blast.
But Bruder's comments fanned the debate anew.
After watching a CNN tape of remarks by Bruder, Rep. Jim Matheson, a
Democrat who represents southwestern Utah, issued a statement Thursday saying:
"Officials who say they are using this Divine Strake test in planning for
new nuclear weapons seem to be ignoring congressional intent about no new
nuclear weapons, and that concerns me."
On the CNN tape, Bruder said: "There are some very hard targets out
there and right now it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to
defeat with current conventional weapons. Therefore there are some that would
probably require nuclear weapons."
Matheson said that he supports development of conventional
bunker-busting bombs, but not a nuclear program. "We need to build
something that actually defeats the threat without harming our soldiers and
innocent civilians," he said.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has said in the past that he does not
oppose the test. The Nevada Democrat said he reached that conclusion after he
and others in the state's congressional delegation were assured by James
Tegnelia, director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, that the test had
nothing to do with development of a nuclear device.
On Thursday, Reid spokeswoman Sharyn Stein said the senator continues to
support the test as a prelude to a conventional weapon. Reid supports
development of a conventional bunker buster as an important tool for national
security, she said.
"I realize his (Tegnelia's) people seem to be dancing around that
right now, and we're not thrilled about that," Stein said. But Tegnelia
personally promised Reid that the test will not lead to resumed nuclear
testing, she said.
(Distributed by Scripps-McClatchy Western Service, http://www.shns.com.)
||"Sorcha Faal" <email@example.com>
||United States Plans World’s Largest Explosion
||Thu, 30 Mar 2006 22:37:17 +0400
[Ed. Note: This report should be read from its website location at
http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index895.htm as this email copy does not
contain the links embedded in the original report.]
March 31, 2006
United States Plans World’s Largest Explosion In Desperate Measure To Halt Catastrophic
Yellowstone Volcanic Eruption By Sacrificing California
By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Russian Subscribers
Russian Military Analysts are reporting today that they have received an urgent communiqué
from the United States Pentagon that during the first week of June they will be detonating
the World’s largest known conventional explosion in one of their most seismically active
Regions, the State of Nevada, and as we also as being confirmed by the Associated Press News
Service in their article titled "US to test 700-tonne explosive", and which says:
"The US military plans to detonate a 700 tonne explosive charge in a test called "Divine
Strake" that will send a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas, a senior defense official said.
"I don't want to sound glib here but it is the first time in Nevada that you'll see a
mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons," said James
Tegnelia, head of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency."
Russian Geologists upon studying this extraordinary United States communiqué dispute the
reasons given by the American Military Government for this massive explosion being needed
for the testing of ‘bunker busting’ bomb technology. One of these reports states that this
massive explosion is intended to relieve the Massive Tectonic pressure upon the North
American Plate and which is now threatening to activate the Yellowstone Super Volcano,
and of which we can read as reported by the Fox News Service in their article titled
"Giant Volcano Under Yellowstone Park Stirring to Life", and which says:
"Forces brewing deep beneath Yellowstone National Park could be making one of the largest
volcanoes on Earth even bigger, a new study reveals.
In the past decade, part of the volcano has risen nearly five inches,most likely due to a
backup of flowing molten rock miles below the planet's crust. While the rise may not be
noticeable to the casual hiker, the activity may have cracked the crust in the park's
famous Norris Geyser Basin (NGB), leading to the formation of new fumaroles — holes that
vent smoke and gas — and the reawakening of some of the area's geysers, including Steamboat,
the largest geyser in the world."
Of even greater concern to the United States are the recent scientific studies of the Great
Sumatra Earthquake as they have shown that the Western Regions of America are at much
greater risk than previously believed, and as we can read as reported by Physorg.Com News
Service in their article titled "Sumatra megaquake defied theory", and which says:
"The risks of Sumatra-style mega-quakes around the world have been sorely misjudged, say
earth scientists who are re-examining some of the pre-December 2004 assumptions scientists
made about such rare events. For more than two decades geologists had thought that the
largest quakes, of magnitude 9 and greater, happen when a young tectonic plate is subducted,
or shoved quickly, under another plate. But the Great Sumatra-Andaman earthquake of
26 December 2004 didn't match that pattern at all. The Indian Plate is middle-aged and
moving at a middling rate, which throws into question the estimated quake dangers at other
similar quake-prone zones near Japan, in the Pacific Northwest, Chile, Alaska, and elsewhere.
Previous to the catastrophic 26 December 2004 earthquake, the theory about how subduction
zones generate quakes was straightforward, says Okal. It boiled down to age and speed.
Where an older, colder and therefore denser slab of crust is being pushed slowly under
another plate, "It will want to sink," he said. As a result there's not a lot of stress
building up to cause large quakes. At the other end of that same spectrum are subduction
zones where young, buoyant crust is being forced quickly under another plate. The rate of
"convergence" and the fact that the young crust resists sinking causes lots of stress to
build up and results in much larger quakes.
"So you could take a map of all the subduction zones of the world and look at it," said Okal.
"The red areas were ones with younger, faster moving crust and the blue areas were older,
slow moving crust." The theory seemed tidy enough and could be verified somewhat by dating
the crust, measuring the rates entire tectonic plates seemed to be moving at, and estimating
the power of past quakes from historical accounts.According to the theory, the Sumatra
subduction zone was capable of no more than a magnitude 8 earthquake, Okal explains. "The
cold shower we got was Sumatra," said Okal. "We have a 9.3 on our hands. You got a point
that violates the plan outrageously."
But perhaps to potentially the greatest catastrophe this Massive Explosion could cause would
be the sacrificing of the State of California as the Tectonic Forces on the North American
Plate would then, should this American plan work, be ‘transferred’ from Yellowstone to the
thousands of fault lines throughout that State. Dr. Scientist Adushkin has further stated
in these reports that this Massive Explosion could actually produce the opposite effect of
what the American Scientists are attempting to achieve by not only triggering catastrophic
earthquakes in California, but also accelerating the Volcanic activity in both Yellowstone
and the North American Pacific Northwest Regions.
For whatever the final results from this Massive Explosion might be it is not to our knowing.
But to the greater catastrophic dangers facing those peoples in the Western Regions of the
United States and Canada it can be said that the sooner they are evacuated from these areas
the greater number of them could be saved.
© March 31, 2006 EU and US all rights reserved.
Minor earthquake felt in southwestern Montana
HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- The U.S. Geological Survey
reported a magnitude 4.6 earthquake Saturday evening, which was felt by
residents around southwest Montana, as well as in Idaho and Wyoming.
The quake, at 8:25 p.m. MDT, was centered about 35 miles east of Lima and 40
miles west of West Yellowstone.
It was felt by residents in Lima, Virginia City, West Yellowstone, as far away
as Helena as well as in Ashton and St. Anthony in Idaho and Jackson and Wilson
in Wyoming, according to reports submitted to the USGS Web site Saturday
The National Weather Service said no damage was immediately reported
Minor Quake Rattles
© 2006 The Associated Press
HELENA, Mont. — A minor earthquake rattled parts of
southwestern Montana Saturday evening.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported a temblor with a
preliminary magnitude of 4.6, which was felt by residents around southwest
Montana, as well as in Idaho and Wyoming.
The quake, at 8:25 p.m. MDT, was centered about 35
miles east of Lima and 40 miles west of West Yellowstone. The National Weather
Service said no damage was immediately reported.
It was felt by residents in Lima, Virginia City, West
Yellowstone, and as far away as Helena. Residents in Ashton and St. Anthony in
Idaho and Jackson and Wilson in Wyoming also felt the quake, according to
reports submitted to the U.S.G.S. Web site.
The quake was reported in an area that has been
rumbling since a magnitude 5.6 earthquake was reported 13 miles northwest of
Dillon on July 25.
On the Net:
U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program:
Publish Date: 8/12/2005
Local fault line long dormant
Delbert Roller had leaned his ladder against the wall to
patch a few holes in the walls on the fourth floor at First National Bank.
Past earthquakes that were felt here were centered
elsewhere in region
“I reached for the wall, and it moved away from me,” the 91-year-old
Loveland resident said this week, remembering the 1984 Wyoming earthquake that
sent tremors through Loveland.
“I really thought the building was falling down.”
On Wednesday, an earthquake measuring magnitude 4.9 struck near the New
Mexico-Colorado border. Those vibrations weren’t felt in Loveland.
Though earthquakes are more common in Southern Colorado than Northern
Colorado, the recent temblor raises the question, can it happen here?
After all, Mariana Butte Golf Course rests on an ancient fault line.
Eric Erslev, a geology professor at Colorado State University, said a number
of fault lines extend from the Rio Grande Rift, which runs from central Colorado
to Mexico, into Northern Colorado.
The area from Horsetooth Reservoir south to Mariana Butte Golf Course is on
an ancient fault line called the Milner Mountain Fault that hasn’t been active
in 40 million years, Erslev said.
John Minsch, a geophysicist from the U.S. Geological Survey, said an
earthquake has never been recorded in Loveland. But if this area does feel a
tremor, it would most likely come from a quake in Wyoming or the Denver area, he
In 1882, an earthquake struck about 20 miles west of Estes Park. According to
U.S. Geological Survey, the tremor caused plaster to fall from walls at the
University of Colorado in Boulder.
People in Salina, Kan., and Salt Lake City, Utah, also felt the rumble.
In the early 1960s, a series of quakes occurred in the Denver area that
extended as far north as Laramie, Wyo., after workers from the Rocky Mountain
Arsenal northeast of Denver pumped waste into a well. The pumping basically
lubricated the faults, Erslev said.
The Army removed the waste in 1968.
In 1981, a magnitude 4.1 earthquake struck the Denver-Thornton area, sending
shocks to Weld County.
And in October 1984, while Roller patched holes inside the Loveland bank —
now Chase Bank — a magnitude 5.5 earthquake centered about 40 miles southeast
of Casper, Wyo., sent tremors south to the Front Range.
No injuries or damage were reported, but people said coffee spilled out of
their cups, bookcases swayed, pictures tilted and papers fell off desks.
“It shook the building pretty good,” said Roller, who has lived in
Loveland since 1976. “I’ve never been anywhere where there was an earthquake
Yellowstone geologist discusses supervolcano threat
CODY, WYO. -- Could a basalt flow erupt from Yellowstone
National Park without warning? Yes, says geologist Henry "Hank"
Could a Mount St. Helens-size eruption take scientists by surprise? No. Nor
could an earth-destroying catastrophic supervolcano like the one in a recent
BBC-Discovery Channel docudrama about Yellowstone, Heasler told a standing
room-only crowd Tuesday.
"The bigger eruptions are, the more indications we
have," said Heasler, a Powell native. "We would see a catastrophic
event months to years before it would occur."
Technology is making the prediction of
eruptions easier than ever in one of the world's greatest laboratories -
Yellowstone National Park. Three-dimensional imagery of the "lava-lamplike
blebs" under Norris geyser basin gives geologists a picture of what's
bubbling beneath the surface.
To help monitor the park's volcanic activity, a 25th seismic station will be
added this year. More aerial work and satellite imagery is planned for this
fall. The number of GPS stations around Mary's Bay and West Thumb will double.
Meanwhile, the temperatures of 40 of the park's 10,000 geothermal features are
"We are trying to monitor closely," Heasler said during a presentation
Tuesday at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center's Coe Auditorium.
For geologists, Yellowstone holds many anomalies that aren't fully understood,
"The words you say most as a scientist in Yellowstone are 'I don't know,'
" Heasler said.
Interest is surging in Yellowstone geology, even though most people believe the
made-for-television "Supervolcano" was just another disaster movie,
"Instead of saying 'I don't know and I don't care,' people are now saying
'I don't know and I'm curious,' " Heasler said.
The movie was based on the Huckleberry Ridge eruptions that scientists believe
happened 2.1 million years ago in the park. Since then, Yellowstone has seen two
other catastrophic eruptions - one 1.3 million years ago and another 640,000
One of these is 6,000 times larger than the Mount St. Helens eruption. Heasler
illustrates this using a financial analogy.
"Most of us have written a check for $1,000. Six thousand times that is $6
million. I don't think many of us will ever cut a check for that amount."
But this is a "low frequency" possibility and "geologically, we
don't know when another would happen, if ever," Heasler said.
On a day-to-day basis, Heasler is more concerned with keeping people safe from
the existing geothermal dangers and monitoring the dynamic park's constant
changes. The park had 1,293 earthquakes last year. There were 130 just during
this past June. People don't even notice most of them, and the activity is
He also keeps an eye out for the telltale signs of bigger doings: earthquake
swarms and dramatic surges in ground deformation, gas emissions, steam
explosions and hydrothermal activity.
All of these happened in Yellowstone in the past decade, but they haven't been
in the same place, Heasler said.
"These need to be in the same area to signify a big eruption," Heasler
He also will work with local and state Homeland Security Offices in preparing a
Volcano Hazard Plan in the next year or so.
"If something was to occur, there's no way the park would be able to handle
everything," Heasler told Park County Homeland Security Coordinator Alex
Gisoldi. "We would need your expertise."
April 2005 Yellowstone Seismicity Summary
During the month of April 2005, 82 earthquakes were located in the Yellowstone region.
The largest of these shocks was a magnitude 2.4 on April 2, 2005 at 2:18 AM MST,
located about 4.9 miles northwest of West Yellowstone, Montana.
Yellowstone Rated High for Eruption Threat
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - The Yellowstone caldera has been classified a
high threat for volcanic eruption, according to a report from the
U.S. Geological Survey.
Yellowstone ranks 21st most dangerous of the 169 volcano centers in the United
States, according to the Geological Survey's first-ever comprehensive review of
the nation's volcanoes.
Kilauea in Hawaii received the highest overall threat score followed by Mount
St. Helens and Mount Rainer in Washington, Mount Hood in Oregon and Mount Shasta
Kilauea has been erupting since 1983. Mount St. Helens, which erupted
catastrophically in 1980, began venting again in 2004.
Those volcanoes fall within the very high threat group, which includes 18
systems. Yellowstone is classified with 36 others as high threat.
Recurring earthquake swarms, swelling and falling ground, and changes in
hydrothermal features are cited in the report as evidence of unrest at
The report calls for better monitoring of the 55 volcanoes in the very high and
high threat categories to track seismic activity, ground bulging, gas emissions
and hydrologic changes.
University of Utah geology professor Robert Smith, who monitors earthquakes and
volcanic activity in Yellowstone, said more real-time monitoring should be
"We've really been stressing over the last couple of years that the USGS
should consider hazards as a very high priority in their future," he said.
We need to get the public's confidence and the perception that we're doing it
The university has joined the Geological Survey and Yellowstone National Park in
creating the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, which uses ground-based
instruments throughout the region and satellite data to monitor
volcanic and earthquake unrest in the world's first national park.
The USGS report recognizes Yellowstone as an unusual hazard because of the
millions of people who visit the park and walk amid features created by North
America's largest volcanic system, Smith said, a status he has been advocating
Smith does not paint the devastating picture portrayed in a recent TV docudrama
but said smaller threats exist. For example, a lower-scale hydrothermal blast
could scald tourists strolling along boardwalks.
Emissions of toxic gases from the park's geothermal features also pose a threat.
Five bison dropped dead last year after inhaling poisonous gases trapped near
the ground due to cold, calm weather near Norris Geyser Basin.
Stepped up monitoring and a new 24-hour watch office could lead to more timely
warnings and help avoid human catastrophes at Yellowstone and nationally,
according to the USGS.
Forty-five eruptions, including 15 cases of notable volcanic unrest, have been
documented at 33 volcanoes in the U.S. since 1980, according to the report,
released April 29, 2005.
On the Net:
U.S. Geological Survey: http://www.usgs.gov
Volcano Threat Report: http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2005/1164
Yellowstone Volcano Observatory: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/yvo/index.html
Professor says findings
confirm Yellowstone's fiery geothermal network
By MIKE STARK - Billings
Gazette Staff - 4/25/05
knows he won't end the debate about what drives the roiling volcanic system
beneath Yellowstone National Park. But he may move it ahead.
assistant geology professor at the University of Wyoming, and a team of
researchers say they have confirmed the existence of a long column of hot rock
that originates 300 miles beneath Yellowstone's surface.
Evidence of the ‘‘mantle plume'' — which stretches 60 miles in diameter
— supports the long-running idea that Yellowstone's fiery geothermal network
is fueled by a pipe of magma rising from deep within the Earth, Dueker said.
The findings, set to be published next month in the journal Geophysical Research
Letters, are the latest salvo in an ongoing dispute among scientists about the
existence of deep plumes of hot rocks that play a key role in places like
Yellowstone, Iceland and Hawaii.
The newest work by Dueker and others used a technique called ‘‘seismic
tomography,'' which uses instruments to track earthquake waves as they travel
through the Earth. The waves change as they enter material that is hotter.
Scientists used those changes to map what they think is happening beneath
Dueker and his
team used 48 seismic stations scattered around Yellowstone, including some near
Billings, Missoula, Pocatello, Idaho, and Riverton, Wyo.
During 2000 and 2001, they said they collected data that, among other things,
showed a narrow pipe of hot rock extending 300 miles below Yellowstone's
surface. The plume tilts at about 15 degrees so the bottom is beneath Dillon,
The findings should help tell the story about how Yellowstone works and further
the debate about plumes beneath places like the first national park.
‘‘The weight of the evidence is going to show there are some plumes,''
Several years ago, some scientists said they had evidence that contradicted at
least 30 years of theory about deep plumes and the creation of volcanic features
at Yellowstone and elsewhere on the planet.
Instead of deep plumes, they said volcanoes and other features could be driven
by a shallow skin of magma beneath the Earth's crust. As continental plates
shift and stretch, the magma bubbles up to filled in the gaps, they said.
Those studies ignited a debate that has fractured the scientific community, with
some scientists siding with the older plume theory and others putting their
support behind the shallow magma theory.
Dueker said the latest research, which included research at the universities of
Wyoming, Utah and Oregon, is more definitive because of the large amount of data
that was collected.
‘‘I still admit there's a 10 percent probability that we could be fooled,''
Dueker said. ‘‘But we'd really have to be fooled.''
Updated: Wednesday, 9 March, 2005,
Experts weigh supervolcano risks
By Paul Rincon
BBC News science reporter
Geologists have called for a taskforce to be set up to consider
emergency management in the event of a massive volcanic eruption, or
The recommendation comes in a report timed to coincide with a BBC TV
drama that depicts a fictional super-eruption at Yellowstone Park in
Experts say such an event would have a colossal impact on a global
A super-eruption is also five to 10 times more likely to happen than
an asteroid impact, the report claims.
The authors want to highlight the issue, which they feel is being
ignored by governments. They emphasise that while catastrophic eruptions
of this kind are rare in terms of a human lifetime, they are
surprisingly common on a geological scale.
The effects, say the authors, "could be sufficiently severe to
threaten the fabric of civilisation" - putting events such as the
Asian tsunami into the shade.
The fallout from a super-eruption could cause a "volcanic
winter", devastating global agriculture and causing mass
It would have a similar effect to a 1.5km-diameter space rock
striking Earth, they claim.
But while impacts of this type are estimated to occur once every
400-500,000 years, the frequency of equivalent super-eruptions is about
once every 100,000 years.
"These are minimum estimates. Super-eruptions could be even more
frequent; we just don't know," said Professor Stephen Self, a
geologist at the Open University in Milton Keynes and a member of the
working group that produced the report.
The Mount Pinatubo eruption was the biggest recorded in
"We still have a lot of unassessed regions of the world. The US
is the place where we see the largest number of super-eruptions. But
that may be because more work has been done there."
One past super-eruption struck at Toba in Sumatra 74,000 years ago
and is thought by some to have driven the human race to the edge of
extinction. Signs from DNA suggest human numbers could have dropped to
about 10,000, probably as a result of the effects of climate change.
The TV drama, called Supervolcano, sticks closely to scientific
understanding of these events.
The plot revolves around a series of violent eruptions at Yellowstone
in Wyoming that send thousands of cubic kilometres of rock, gas and ash
spiralling up in cloud that rains down over three-quarters of the United
Highways become blocked with cars as millions flee the unfolding
disaster, and as the chain of eruptions unzips Yellowstone's volcanic
crater, hundreds of thousands are killed as the ash swamps whole towns
America's food-producing regions are devastated, communications are
knocked out and planes are forced out of the sky.
Yellowstone is the largest volcanic system in North America
Sulphuric acid droplets form in the atmosphere, blocking out
sunlight, and causing global temperatures to plummet.
Professor Stephen Sparks, of Bristol University, an author on the new
report, said civil contingency plans would need to be similar to those
for a nuclear war.
"You would need contingencies for food and shelter. But you
would need to put a serious amount of resources into any effort to cope
with an event on this scale, so it poses a dilemma," he said.
The volcanic winter resulting from a super-eruption could last
several years or decades, depending on the scale of an eruption, and
according to recent computer models, could cause cooling on a global
scale of 5-10C.
Ailsa Orr, producer of Supervolcano, said that when the programme
team presented the scenario to the US Federal Emergency Management
Agency (Fema), the agency admitted it had given little thought to such
an event happening on American soil.
"We don't want to be sensationalist about this, but it's going
to happen. We just can't say exactly when," said Professor Self.
"But we have just had a natural disaster affecting hundreds of
thousands of people. Now is the time to be thinking about this."
Yellowstone is the largest volcanic system in North America. The
area's cauldrons of bubbling mud and roaring geysers attract nearly
three million visitors each year.
It was an obvious choice for the programme makers as the site of
their super-eruption because of its location on a highly populated
continent and because it has already had three of these events, which
have occurred roughly 600,000 years apart from each other.
The crater from the last super-eruption, 640,000 years ago, is large
enough to fit Tokyo - the world's biggest city - inside it.
The report, released by The Geological Society in the UK, identifies
at least 31 sites where super-eruptions have occurred in the past. They
include Lake Taupo in New Zealand and the Phlegrean Fields near Naples,
The drama Supervolcano is broadcast in two parts, on BBC One on
Sunday 13 March and Monday 14 March. Both transmissions are at 2100 GMT.
Two science documentaries called Supervolcano: The Truth About
Yellowstone are broadcast after the drama, on BBC Two. Again, these air
on Sunday and Monday but at the later time of 2200 GMT
By Kevin Krajick
Pent-up water and steam threaten to burst through the park's surface
(And we're not talking Old Faithful here)
Yellowstone National Park is a land of many perils. Occasionally, one
of the three million yearly visitors strolls up to a 2,000-pound bison
and is gored. Others eat poisonous plants, snowmobile on avalanche-prone
slopes, or plunge off a cliff on that last step backward to frame the
perfect photograph. And at Yellowstone's 10,000 volcanically driven hot
springs, geysers, bubbling mud pots and fumaroles—earth's largest
concentration of hydrothermal features—about two dozen people have been
boiled alive after falling or jumping in.
"People do a lot of crazy things," says Lisa Morgan, a volcanologist
with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) who conducts research in the park
for a few weeks every summer. She is trying to protect the sandal-clad
innocents not from these mishaps, however, but from the ultimate
"thermal accident": hydrothermal explosions. They can happen when
magma-heated water and steam build up in underground pockets. This pressure causes
parts of the landscape to rise and fall like merry-go-round horses.
Usually they settle back down again harmlessly. But now and then, things
One of Morgan's best guesses for the next big blowout—maybe the biggest
in 3,000 years—is a 2,100-foot-wide, 100-foot-high swelling on the bed
of Yellowstone Lake. No one has observed any of the park's ground
movements long enough to say which ones signal danger, but she says the lake
bed could conceivably burst open. If so, lakeside picnickers could see
a tsunami or truck-size rocks heading their way. "I wouldn't want to be
here," says Morgan. Then she thinks of the spectacle. "Well, maybe in
The park sits on a still-active 30- by 45-mile caldera, a depression
created when a volcano erupted 640,000 years ago. Chances of a lava
eruption in the next 10,000 years appear remote, but magma simmering four to
five miles beneath the caldera's trapped groundwater drives the park's
hydrothermal convulsions. Geysers like Old Faithful release pressure,
but it can build to the breaking point when heated fluids get sealed in
by shifts in rock structures, clogged vents or overlying sediment and
In and around Yellowstone Lake—which lies near the caldera's
center—Morgan and colleagues have identified several areas heavily pocked by past
hydrothermal explosions. The pits, which appear to untrained eyes as
ponds or depressions in the ground, are a few yards to hundreds of yards
wide. Along the lake, in eroded beach cliffs and creek banks, Morgan
has found layers of sand and sharp-angled rock up to three feet thick;
the debris was hurled as far as three and a half miles by past explosions
in the lake bed. Arrowheads jumbled in lakeshore deposits suggest
unlucky prehistoric Native Americans were around for some of the explosions.
Major ones occurred from 3,000 to 14,000 years ago, according to
radiocarbon dating of wood fragments mingled with the deposited rock and soil
debris. Since people started keeping track, in 1872, there have been at
least 20 minor blowouts at sites around the park, including several at
favorite tourist spots such as Biscuit Basin and Norris Geyser Basin.
The last notable one was in 1989, when the throat of Norris Basin's Pork
Chop Geyser apparently clogged with minerals. When it burst, boulders
rained down near tourists more than 200 feet away. (They were
Only recently did scientists realize the entire park was heaving up and
down. In the 1970s, geophysics professor Robert Smith of the University
of Utah compared new scientific surveys of ground elevations with
surveys made for road building in the 1920s. He found the caldera's center
had risen nearly three feet. It kept rising until 1985, when a series of
earthquakes rocked the park. Scientists speculate that the tremors
coincided with the sideways escape of pent-up gases. Afterward, the caldera
began deflating by three-quarters of an inch a year. In 1995, some
parts of it reversed direction and started reinflating, until stopping in
2002. In the meantime, a previously undetected 25-mile-wide swelling
began outside the caldera, near Norris Basin, surrounded by smaller
swellings one to three miles in diameter.
Though no one is sure what all of this heaving means, it's given
researchers a sense of urgency about understanding the park's contortions.
"Protecting visitors is our No. 1 concern," says park geologist Hank
Heasler, who is working with other scientists to come up with a
New problem spots are popping up all the time as well. In March 2003,
fourteen new steam vents opened along a 230-foot line north of Norris
Basin, releasing plumes of dense water vapor and powdered glass shards in
a tremendous roar. Then, last July, geysers began erupting at odd
times. The park had to close off much of Norris when ground temperatures
shot up in places from 80 degrees Fahrenheit to 200, and the earth near a
boardwalk became more acidic and began to dissolve. The basin has since
calmed down, and rangers have reopened most of it, but scientists are
monitoring trailside areas with thermometers stuck in the ground,
seismographs peppering strategic hills, and radar images taken from
satellites. "Yellowstone is like a medical patient, but we haven't studied it
long enough to know its normal pulse or respiration rate," says Heasler,
standing half a mile from the new steam vents.
Morgan is still tracking the dome on the Yellowstone Lake floor called
the "inflated plain." She first spotted it in 1999, while she and
colleagues were mapping the lake bottom. The rise, she says, is apparently
the result of steam or carbon dioxide building up under the lake bed,
sealed in by sediments and overlying water pressure. The swelling seems
to have grown in the 1990s and is suspiciously close in size to major
blowout craters nearby. In fact, it lies along a nearby fissure, a crack
that forms the bed of curiously straight Weasel Creek and continues
through the lake bed itself. Morgan says the fissure may have been formed
by the caldera's rise and fall, like the crack atop a loaf of bread
rising in the oven.
At the lakeshore opposite the inflated plain one summer day, Morgan and
USGS geochemist Pat Shanks investigate some small, inactive craters.
They insert a temperature probe into the soil; six inches down, it
registers 152 degrees F. Something is still fuming there. Suddenly, some
tourists armed with cameras and collapsible walking sticks crest a ridge
and charge down, and their guide collars Morgan for an impromptu lecture
on the craters. She cheerfully obliges, telling the visitors that the
craters are old features—probably not dangerous right now. She barely
mentions the inflated plain. "I don't want to scare them too much," she
says. "These people are on vacation."
By Kevin Krajick
THE WORLD IS IN CRISIS DUE TO GLOBAL WARMING!
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