||Yellowstone Park sits
directly over a hot spot. The volcano is quiet today, only the geysers and hot springs
remind us that there is a huge volcano under the beautiful scenery. Only 600,000 years ago
a huge eruption filled the area with lava flows. After the huge eruption there was a void
under the top of the volcano. The weight of the volcano caused the top to come crashing
down forming the large caldera
in the park. Since the hot spot remains active, another giant eruption will almost
certainly occur. The question is, when?
||A new cycle of volcanic
activity has begun. The number and strength of earthquakes have increased; new hot springs
have appeared and existing ones have grown. A large area to the northeast of Yellowstone
Lake has uplifted again. Your group has been hired to present your predictions about
future eruptions. Will it erupt again? If so, when? How much damage will it cause? Each
group member needs to take on a different role and then the group will consult with each
other to prepare the final presentation. The roles are as follows:
Seismologist - Collect earthquake activity information around Yellowstone.
Research predictors of other volcanic eruptions, such as Mount St. Helens.
Cartographer - Map the caldera, seismic activity, uplifted
regions, and different geyser activity.
Yellowstone Park Official - The person who knows all of the facts
about Yellowstone's caldera and the history of the caldera.
- Go to the National Earthquake Information
Center (NEIC) and do a rectangular search of seismographic activity around the Yellowstone
Caldera. Use the following parameters: top latitude = 46; bottom latitude = 44; right
longitude = -109.5; and left longitude = -111.5.
- Sort this information however it is the
most useful for you, i.e. by decade, magnitude, etc...
- You may want to graph the information
either in a bar chart, scatterplot, pie chart, or whichever is the most useful for you.
- Find out about seismographic activity as
predictors of other volcano eruptions.
- Obtain a map of the Yellowstone Park (there
are several links below that provide maps). The Yellowstone Park Official may be of help
in this area also.
- Find out about the seismic activity in that
region from the Seismologists and create a seismic map. You may want to look at the
seismic maps developed by the University of Utah.
- Also include mapping information about
geyser activities and uplift areas.
- All of this information may appear on one
or more maps.
Yellowstone Park Official:
- Find as much information as you can about
the Yellowstone caldera, i.e. its size, how it was formed, its location.
- Determine when it last erupted.
- Determine how large of an eruption the
Yellowstone caldera can produce, particularly compared to other volcanoes.
- Provide information to the seismologist and
the cartographer as needed.
- Present to the class your predictions for
the Yellowstone caldera. Have documentation for your predictions and visual aids. See
- The probability of the caldera erupting in
any particular year can be estimated at 0.000001429% (worse odds than winning the
lottery). Is this the same as 0% probability? Explain.
HAZARDS FACT SHEET: Yellowstone: Restless Volcanic Giant - provides historical and current information on the Yellowstone caldera
Caldera's Geologic Setting and Eruptive History
- University of Utah
SEISMICITY MAPS-Yellowstone National Park Region Seismicity Maps
- Volcanic and Geologic Terms
- a comprehensive glossary
- Eruption scale -
how BIG are volcanic eruptions?
Snake River Plain and the Yellowstone Hot Spot - provides great map information and
visual magnitude comparison
- Volcanoes of the United States
Online Version 1.1 by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
- National Earthquake
Information Center World Data Center A for Seismology Geologic Hazards - RECTANGULAR
AREA search for earthquakes - use the parameters given above
- USGS Volcano Hazards
Program - When is the Volcano Going to Erupt? - provides historical information on
other volcanic eruptions
- Synopsis of Historical
Eruptions in the United States
- Eruptions of Mount St. Helens: Past,
Present, and Future - online edition contains all text from the original book in its
- Danger lurks in
Yellowstone Park, especially underneath the earth - By Jon Sarche, Seattle
Post-Intelligencer, September 5, 1996
- Surfing the Internet for
Earthquake Data - Seismosurfing
(downloadable) is a Microsoft Windows-based computer program designed to facilitate the
study of seismicity associated with volcanic activity. VolQuake software comes with data
sets from Mount St. Helens, Washington (1976-1980), Mount Pinatubo,
Philippines (1991) and Mt. Spurr, Alaska (1992).
Off-line resources (if available):
- Pierce, K.L., and Morgan, L.A., 1992, The track of the Yellowstone hotspot: volcanism,
faulting, and uplift: Geological Society of America Memoir 179, pages 1-53.
- Smith, R.B., and Christiansen, R.L., 1980, Yellowstone Park as a window on the Earth's
interior: Scientific American, volume 242, pages 104-117.
||View the Group Presentation Rubric
Yellowstone is the largest and
oldest national park system in the United States. Geysers, which occur in very few other
places in the world, occur here in profusion, along with hot springs, steam vents, and
associated phenomena. These are usually the main interests of visitors to the park. Most
people are not aware that Yellowstone is becoming increasingly active and dangerous. While
scientists have yet to fully understand the massive power of the geothermal features of
the park, which are extraordinary and beautiful, the forces can also be life-threatening