USGS Scientist Gives Update on Yellowstone Super Volcano Changes
The one constant in Yellowstone is change. Mike Poland, the Scientist-in-Charge for the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, updated us on changing ecosystem in and around the Yellowstone super volcano.
Mike took time out of his busy schedule to visit with us this morning. You can check out the full interview here.
We asked Mike if conspiracy theories about the super volcano at Yellowstone frustrate him.
Mike Poland - "A little bit...I actually see a lot of these as opportunities. I think most people when they're looking for this kind of information, they really just have...honest questions. They don't know the answers. There is a lot of sensationalist stuff out there like you see on the tabloids and random YouTube channels...those folks are trying to take advantage of people that really just are curious. I see that in some ways as an opportunity to engage, to try and get people good information."
Newsweek reported that the USGS shared a study about how uplift in the Norris area of Yellowstone has been caused by movement of magma. We asked Mike about what his assessment is of the current state of the super volcano.
Mike Poland - "My specialty in terms of the science of volcano-logy is how the ground moves. At Yellowstone, we have tremendous amounts of that. The ground is always moving up and down. It varies over time and space. And, the Norris area is one of the most sort of changeable dynamic interesting areas...Norris had been going up over the last few years and then in 2018, 2019 sort of plateaued and then it went down a little bit at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. It's just always changing and this is by very small amounts...by a couple of inches a year...we think what we're looking at here is a whole cycle of magma-tic intrusion back in the late 1990's very deep, but that triggered a release of gases and waters which magma often carries with it...we saw this whole cycle for the first time because of the great monitoring data we now have access to...it's not alarming cause this kind of thing happens all the time. It's merely that we have the chance to actually see it and characterize it for the first time".
Steamboat Geyser began erupting again in 2013 after nearly 8 1/2 years of being dormant. Mike does not necessarily connect that to the uplift in the Norris area.
The one question many that follow Yellowstone want to know is what signs would indicate that a major event like an eruption might be imminent. Mike indicated that we'd see major earthquake and park-wide changes and not minor changes in isolated areas.
Mike Poland - "First, it's important to understand that Yellowstone IS this really active and dynamic place. There were some news reports that made it onto various social media feeds recently that oh there were some earthquakes at Yellowstone...there's something like an average of 2,000 earthquakes every year at Yellowstone...in order to get concerned, I would expect that we would be seeing tens of thousands of earthquakes many of which would be felt...you would see a tremendous amount of uplift...if we starting seeing meters a year, many feet of uplift in a very short time period...weeks to months, that would be concerning. If we start seeing changes in heat emissions, water emissions, gas emissions, geyser activity that was happening on a park-wide scale...that would be concerning."
If you want to keep up with the constant changes at Yellowstone, make sure you follow Mike on YouTube. He has been sharing monthly updates about the state of the park. The USGS YouTube channel is a highly recommended follow.
We very much appreciate Mike Poland for taking time out of his very busy schedule to update us on Yellowstone National Park and the dynamic seismic and volcanic systems that make it such a unique destination.