Yellowstone volcano: Elevated earthquake activity during June 2017


Yellowstone earthquake activity is currently at elevated levels compared with typical background activity. This is largely due to an energetic earthquake swarm about 10 km (6 miles) north of West Yellowstone, Montana that started on June 12. Monitored locations within the Yellowstone caldera continue to slowly subside.

In their monthly update released 14:56 UTC on July 1, 2017, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory reports 1 171 earthquakes were recorded in the Yellowstone National Park (YNP) region during the month of June. The largest event was a light earthquake of magnitude 4.4 at 00:48 UTC on June 16, located about 14.5 km (9 miles) NNW of West Yellowstone, Montana. The earthquake was reported felt in the towns of Gardiner and West Yellowstone, MT.

This earthquake is part of an energetic sequence of earthquakes in the same area that began on June 12. It is is the largest earthquake to occur in Yellowstone National Park since March 30, 2014, when a magnitude 4.8 event occurred 29 km (18 miles) to the east, near Norris Geyser Basin. The March 30, 2014 earthquake was the largest earthquake at Yellowstone since February 22, 1980.


June 2017 seismicity in Yellowstone was marked by four distinct clusters of episodic earthquakes:

1) An energetic swarm of 1 027 earthquakes, ~9.6 km (6 miles) N of West Yellowstone, MT, began June 12 and is ongoing, including the largest event of the month on June 16 (magnitude 4.4). This swarm also consists of five earthquakes in the magnitude 3 range and 72 earthquakes in the magnitude 2 range.

Yellowstone National Park earthquake swarm June 2017

Credit: UUSS

2) 41 events occurred in a small swarm ~22.5 km (14 miles) ENE of West Yellowstone, MT, with swarm activity occurring June 14 and 15. The largest earthquake of the swarm (magnitude 2.3) occurred June 14, at 13:39 UTC ~22.5 km (14 miles) ENE of West Yellowstone. This swarm includes two earthquakes in the magnitude 2 range.

3) A small swarm of 22 earthquakes, ~22.5 km (14 miles) SSW of Mammoth, WY, took place on June 1 and 2 (UTC), with the largest event (magnitude 2.6) occurring June 2, at 02:29 UTC. This swarm includes 3 earthquakes in the magnitude 2 range.

4) A small swarm of 13 earthquakes, ~25.7 km (16 miles) ENE of West Yellowstone, occurred June 13. The largest earthquake (magnitude 1.7) occurred June 13, at 13:14 UTC.

Earthquake sequences like these are common and account for roughly 50% of the total seismicity in the Yellowstone region. Yellowstone earthquake activity is currently at elevated levels compared with typical background activity, YVO said.

Ground deformation

Monitored locations within the Yellowstone caldera continue to slowly subside. Uplift north of the caldera, centered near the Norris Geyser Basin continues at a low rate. Behavior is similar to the past several months. Current deformation patterns at Yellowstone remain within historical norms.

Geological summary

The Yellowstone Plateau volcanic field developed through three volcanic cycles spanning two million years that included some of the world's largest known eruptions. Eruption of the >2450 km3 Huckleberry Ridge Tuff about 2.1 million years ago created the more than 75-km-long (46 miles) Island Park caldera. The second cycle concluded with the eruption of the Mesa Falls Tuff around 1.3 million years ago, forming the 16-km-wide (9.9 miles) Henrys Fork caldera at the western end of the first caldera.

Activity subsequently shifted to the present Yellowstone Plateau and culminated 640 000 years ago with the eruption of the >1000 km3 Lava Creek Tuff and the formation of the present 45 x 85 km (28 x 52 miles) caldera. Resurgent doming subsequently occurred at both the NE and SW sides of the caldera and voluminous (1000 km3) intracaldera rhyolitic lava flows were erupted between 150 000 and 70 000 years ago. No magmatic eruptions have occurred since the late Pleistocene, but large hydrothermal eruptions took place near Yellowstone Lake during the Holocene. Yellowstone is presently the site of one of the world's largest hydrothermal systems including Earth's largest concentration of geysers.

Featured image: June 2017 earthquake swarm in Yellowstone National Park. Credit: USGS/YVO


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  1. Tha makes about as much sense, Melanie, as Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) when when he said he was opposed to the military activity on Guam “My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize,” Johnson said. Willard paused and replied, “We don’t anticipate that.”


    1. Some say they hope california drops into the ocean,it does not have to be all natural. Have you ever seen the map that the U S navy predicts about future coastlines,?. Well most of California and Nevada will be under water .

  2. Using your logic Melanie, when a continent gets rained on it might cause an imbalance and generate continental drift? (Weight of water.) The Scientists must pull their hair out with all these speculations from the uneducated.

  3. …Of course it’s Trump’s fault…. Millions of years of geologic and thermal activity absent of homes, lumber, timber removal and still the leftist loons find someway to lay a sesmic shift at a US Pres feet. Lay off the shrooms and medical pot – pay attention in class and stop looking for reasons to hate.

  4. The earthquake swarms,is this a sign of continental drift?
    I know that what in going on in california,over development is causing alot of enviromental disasters,then people who are victims of man made disasters move to california further magnifying the problem.When trees are taken down and wood transported some where else,the weight of tree cuases imbalance of earth for which earth has to keep its balance regardless,and those in areas of change either become victims or flee.President Trump is about to issue order to log Sequoias federal land,the removal of such trees might cause disasters like in 1800s mississippi running backwards,or mammoth mt volcano erupt as earth has to maintain balance what a pending disaster ,unimaginable.

    1. Wouldn’t the weight of the homes that are built where the trees were growing, offset the unloaded weight on the earth that occurs when the trees are removed?

    2. Wow I hope you don’t have a degree in science because if you did I’d ask for a refund and as far as your suggestion that President Trump is ABOUT to sign an executive order to cut down you precious national park trees. I ask you are you a for seer as well…wow man start smoking weed not crack.

    3. Let me guess. Hardcore environmentalist, with a degree in one of the Humanities by any chance? You need to stop spreading rumors. Here, allow me to correct you:

      1. The Yellowstone Hotspot is a result of continental drift period. No big deal, it has been known for years. But continents do not drift fast enough to attribute entire Earthquake swarms to it.

      2. No, Trump is not preparing to log Sequoias. But hopefully he is about to dump the decision that resulted from the Spotted Owl fiasco, further up here in the Pacific Northwest. Such would be sweet. The Spotted Owl was another environmentalist scam.

      3. But logging the Sequoias could cause a disaster comparable to what happened after the New Madrid quake? Or set off a volcano? What are you on? It sounds like it’s good. Hopefully momma taught you that you should share?

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