More on Yellowstone, harmonic tremors

from Scientific American

“Any disaster fiend will tell you that Yellowstone National Park is long overdue for a monster eruption that could leave as much as half the U.S. under a blanket of ash. And there are rumblings the big one could be imminent in the wake of a series of 30-plus mini-earthquakes in the park over the past few days—too weak to be felt by humans for the most part but picked up by the seismometers at the University of Utah.”

“After all, the geologic record shows that the giant caldera we affectionately call Yellowstone has blown every 600,000 years or so over the past 2 million years. The last big eruption? About 640,000 years ago when the park spit out about 240 cubic miles worth of rock, dirt, magma and other stuff.”

Small earthquake swarms are not indicators of imminent volcanic eruptions, but harmonic tremors are. From USGS visual glossary:

harmonic tremor: Harmonic tremor describes continuous rhythmic earthquakes that can be detected by seismographs. Harmonic tremors often precede or accompany volcanic eruptions. The visual glossary has an example to look at, all the better to compare the harmonic tremors as seen on the University of Utah’s seismos, which I posted earlier. Decide for yourself if they are ground quakes or magma tremors.

But here’s from Rightpundits:

It should be noted that all the earthquakes have been intense and concentrated in one area, which happens to be above the magma chamber. [ see .gif below ] The scariest part of this story is the “harmonic tremors” that scientists have picked up. They are a low level constant rumbling, which usually indicates magma movement.

Continuing the Scientific American excerpt:

“In recent years, Yellowstone’s caldera has been rising thanks to uplifting magma beneath it—leading to more cracks, hot springs and even more frequent eruptions of Steamboat Geysers. Paired with the earthquakes, such magma movement might presage an eruption—either big or small. Unfortunately, scientists can’t really predict when the next such eruption will happen, and the range of possibilities is large: from later today to a million years from now.”

“How will we know if we should start worrying? The real warning signs will be rapid changes in the shape of the ground as well as volcanic gases leaking from the ground, neither of which have been sighted—yet.”

If indeed the supervolcano is getting ready to blow, it does not necessarily have to be a supereruption. It could be a small one or it could by a hydrothermic event. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the unusual swarm continues. And is should be noted that a day and a half ago the USGS started pulling the eq’s from their list and have not posted all of them that have occurred, according to other sites that have different seismographs and are noting more activity than USGS is publicly posting.

MAP 2.7 2009/01/01 12:51:24 44.548 -110.361 0.2 (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.4 2009/01/01 10:13:52 44.541 -110.389 0.2 (36 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.4 2009/01/01 10:12:57 44.325 -110.388 37.0 (42 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.3 2009/01/01 10:06:51 44.529 -110.370 0.5 (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.3 2009/01/01 10:02:57 44.528 -110.346 0.2 (39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.6 2009/01/01 06:59:39 44.504 -110.340 0.9 (39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.1 2009/01/01 05:29:09 44.507 -110.309 1.5 (40 mi) SSW of Cooke City-Silver Gate, MT
MAP 2.2 2009/01/01 05:19:51 44.509 -110.350 1.7 (39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT


18 thoughts on “More on Yellowstone, harmonic tremors

  1. Elizabeth, I was looking at some of the recordings out of curiosity and saw that activity across the bottom. I’m not a geologist, but looking at the location of the earthquakes and that signature across the bottom of the seismograph tracings was enough to get my attention. I sincerely feel for the scientists whose job it is to decide whether to alert the population that the slumbering extinction causer is awakening, or whether this, too, will subside.

  2. have you seen the animation out of Univ Utah? I just posted a separate post but here is the link few of us on blogs and forums etc have been wondering: if the supervolcano blows, we know what is ahead. Would the PTB alert us? Or is it better not to? Because there is nowhere to go, nothing that can be done? Unless it is a small eruption (not likely since we are talking supervolcano not volcano) or maybe if any coming eruption is hydrothermic much of the US would be in good shape…but WOULD the government sound the alarm? Most of us thought not.

  3. There have been some new developments over the past 18 hours or so. I had been following the seismic monitoring activity at Yellowstone very closely, but most of the live feeds were suddenly discontinued yesterday (Why?). The remaining live monitors can be viewed here: only feeds currently active are:The Lake, Yellowstone (where we are, of course, seeing this intense activity), Madison RiverMonitor YUF_SHZ_WY (no location specified)Norris JunctionWhat really concerns me, and others, is not just the swarm of very “local” quakes, all within a few miles of Fishing Bridge, Montana, it is the non-stop “harmonic tremors”. These are low-level rumbles, ie. many thousands of tiny “shakes” per hour, and are associated with the magma movement of volcanoes rather than hydrothermal activity. These are not a feature of regular tectonic (plate) activity, except shortly before and after a recordable quake. These tremors have been going on non-stop for several days, interspersed with the larger quakes. Go to the above page and click on to Lake, Yellowstone Park, and click on the link for 26th December. This IS only a partial feed for that day, and shows the beginnings of activity. Now look at the activity on the 31st by contrast. I find this extremely worrying. I am also astonished that there has been no mainstream reporting of these events, but maybe I shouldn’t be. We wouldn’t want to stop people spending their dollars at Yellowstone now, would we?Now, the area of intense seismic activity is bang over the top of the magma chamber and the area has been “bulging” for some years with an accelerated rate of uplift. Here is an excellent piece from 2007:“MAGMA RISE CAUSES RECORD SURGE AT YELLOWSTONE”: you can view all recorded quake activity by USGS, in the past week, at Yellowstone with a useful location map right here:MAP OF EARTHQUAKE ACTIVITY AT YELLOWSTONE WITH LISTS (regularly updated): think that we CAN conclude that magma movement IS the most likely cause of the current intense activity but.we are going into this thing fairly blind. It may, of course, all just settle down to the usual background stuff over the next few days. No-one has ever been able to record data before a supervolcanic eruption because the last one was 74,000 years ago. It is estimated that THAT event wiped out 90% of mankind across the world. How much better-equipped are we now?

  4. I’ve been asking myself and friends the same question, and have to recall the difficulty of evacuating, say, the coastline cities to the inland for a catastrophe in the form of a hurricane that we know beyond any doubt is coming. The roads are clogged, tempers flare, gas stations run dry, grocery store shelves are stripped, and the evacuations take several days to just move a hundred miles or so inland to an area where the shelters are crowded and hotel rooms have long since been filled. And that is in the summertime when the roads are in good condition, not in the winter with icy, treacherous roads. Then, of course, there are the people that stubbornly insist on staying and then have to be rescued from their dilemma. There are farmers and ranchers in that area that could not afford to leave and abandon their livestock for an unknown duration of time. If it were a false alarm, their livestock would possibly starve before they got back. I suppose my question would be how could 100% of those people be evacuated from a several state area if an evacuation were to be called for? I don’t think it is something that the government would or could keep undercover; vulcanologists from around the world would be able to look at the seismograph tracings and raise the alarm.

  5. Whoops, yes I did see that! I have it posted. That graphic depicting where the quakes were located was what initially made me say “holy (bleep)!”

  6. Holy Wowza, Shropshire Lass! The difference between the seisomgraph recording from the 26th to the 31st is amazing. And worrisome like you say. I am getting reports from other sources too that the live feeds, constant reporting/updating and internet feedback have ceased. Why?Thanks so much for the links, they are very helpful.I agree that we are scientifically blind now, there is no context for BEFORE a supervolcano eruption. Only archaeological evidence for after. Maybe it WILL subside after a few days. But the worrisome thing to me is the article you posted showing sudden and dramatic increase in the height of the bulge over the last three years. Hmmm. I’ve been playing Jimmy Buffett’s “Volcano” song, I don’t know…where I’m-s gonna go…when the volcano blows… la la la

  7. Swampwoman, I too would hope that the scientists would be able to do their duty and present all the data possible so we can decide…and that they would in good conscience alert the world…What good are the seeds lying in the Svalbard Seed Vault if there’s nobody to plant them lol

  8. Hunh. When I decided that other people might be as interested in the information that I had so laboriously sought out to educate myself about this earthquake swarm, I thought maybe it was just me when I found the information was no longer available. It is interesting to find out that others are finding it difficult to locate as well. On the other hand, if the park is still open to the public, they must not be all that worried about it.

  9. this report also mentions Univ UT taking down infoA review of the tremor swarms below Yellowstone Lake and the Lake Outflow data show a correlation between the periods of Harmonic Tremors and the volume of water flowing out of the lake.This correlation could mean that ground deformation (raising) is taking place under Yellowstone Lake as a direct result of the earthquakes and harmonic tremors ongoing since December 26th.****(All data devices waterflow and sesmic resumed data feeds late this afternoon, per note below they were offline for several hours)*****It is also interesting to note that the University of Utah and USGS started taking the web reports from many of many of the seismographs in Yellowstone off-line yesterday afternoon so the general public can no longer view them. graph at link. I think the USGS and UT taking information DOWN is causing more panic than if they just left the data up and let people come to conclusions

  10. Increased Outflow from Yellowstone Lake is accompanied by harmonic tremors? Interesting.This suggest to me that increased hydrothermal fluid flow beneath Yellowstone lake is causing harmonic tremors and increased outflow. The north end of Yellowstone Lake has many huge hydrothermal explosion craters (Indian Pond) and subsurface hot springs. I suspect an impending hydrothermal explosion, not a volcanic eruption. This happens when boiling ground water turns to steam, causing an explosion.“Saturated and subcooled hydrothermal boiling in groundwater flow channels as a source of harmonic tremor.Leet, Robert C.”

  11. I was interested in your site, I found it when I did a search for Yellowstone harmonic tremors. So they are hiding the facts. One thing that made me suspect this is the new results on Yellowstone swarms. It all sounded to me like they were told to downplay it, calm everyone down, so we don’t have the panic shown in the film, Supervolcano, about Yellowstone erupting.Go watch the show fast!!! EVERYTHING they portray in the film is happening now. I just got done watching it for the second time today!!! Did you know FEMA has actually arrested a man who put out a USGS warning of evacuation?? I kid you not!!! They are arresting him for telling the truth!!!Something that they should be doing right now.I live in Illinois, only two states away from the volcano, and I really don’t want to be here. But really, where would I go??? We cannot just up and move. CAN WE???I’ve been told, by some people who know, that the signal to look for now is the harmonic tremors. Because that says that one of those earthquakes has made a hole, and the magma is moving.I’ve also been told by friends, that the moment they see that, evacuation of the planet will begin, because Yellowstone will trigger the pole shift. So, people, expect to be evacuated from the planet. They are on Red/Red alert right now.When Yellowstone blows, it is going to get real bad down here! This from the people who KNOW about supervolcano eruptions.Tianca

  12. Timing is everything. You may wish to read my book, just posted on Go to Amazon and search for YELLOWSTONE FOUR. WARNING: sense of humor required.

  13. Yellowstone National Park – Super Volcano – Hydrogen Sulfide H2S Gas – Warning – 18 January 2009YouTube


  14. reminds me of the Summer of 1816 known as '1816-and-froze-to-death” where the summer never arrived in many states due to the Indonesian Mount Tambora eruption of 1815. They call is Volcanic Winter (After Carl Sagan's Nuclear Winter). Yep, nowhere to go that won't be affected. But it IS possible to evacuate so as not to blow up in the initial eruption.

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