Earthquakes keep Yellowstone geysers healthy, active - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Earthquakes keep Yellowstone geysers healthy, active

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File Photo: National Parlk Service; Norris Geyser Basin File Photo: National Parlk Service; Norris Geyser Basin

You normally do not feel the thousands of earthquakes that occur in Yellowstone Nat’l Park every year, but Thursday evening people from West Yellowstone to Gardiner felt the ground shake from a 4.5 quake near the park’s west entrance.

The U.S. Geological Survey tracks seismic activity in the park through the University of Utah Seismograph Stations. A quick check of the UUSS page shows by 11 a.m. Friday, there were already another 50 earthquakes in the park, after the 4.5 quake. The range of magnitude was -.1 to 3.1 and the average magnitude was 1.7.

On a post to the Yellowstone Nat’l Park Facebook page, park employees say, “Earthquakes help maintain geysers by keeping the ‘plumbing’ system open.”

Park officials add earthquakes can even change the behavior of geysers. An earthquake in 1987 changed Old Faithful’s schedule and the Clepsydra Geyser (in the Lower Geyser Basin) has been in a near constant state of eruption since a massive earthquake just outside the park in 1959.

The USGS says natural geysers are rare on Earth. There are fewer than 1,000 worldwide and about half of them are in Yellowstone. Scientists with the USGS recently published a paper on Yellowstone’s geysers and geothermal activities and how understanding the mechanics of geysers can help predict volcanic eruptions. Here is a link to the full study: http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev-earth-063016-015605

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