Yellowstone Seismic Activity Not Worrisome To Geologists

Apr 3, 2014

A video showing bison running down the road has gone viral. The clip has sparked speculation on the internet that the animals were fleeing from potentially deadly seismic activity. 

However, some geologists disagree.

Paul Morgan, a senior geologist with the Colorado Geological Survey, said animals are sensitive to seismic activity; however, because earthquakes happen tens of times a day in Yellowstone, the animals are most likely used to the small earthquakes.

“These are mostly events that can’t be felt,” Morgan said. “Occasionally we get one that is strong enough that people can feel them if they are quiet and at rest,” Morgan said.

Seismic activity in Yellowstone is frequent because the National Park sits atop a dormant super volcano. 

“A dormant volcano is a volcano that hasn’t erupted in historic times but is expected to erupt again sometime in the future,” Morgan said. “That could be within our lifetime, or it could be several thousand years in the future.”

Morgan said the Colorado Geological Survey has been monitoring the magma chamber which is located six to eight miles beneath the surface of the Earth. Typically, when volcanoes are close to eruption the magma level beneath the surface rises, something that has not been seen recently. 

The last major eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera was 600,000 years ago. Similar super volcanoes have been known to blow ash thousands of miles and lay down tens of thousands of feet of debris 

The volcano measures 34 by 45 miles in diameter. It was formed over the last two million years.