Stories tagged Yellowstone National Park

Jul
11
2014

Hot tracks: Portions of the Firehole Lake Drive in Yellowstone National Park have melted from underground thermals that have released heat to the surface.
Hot tracks: Portions of the Firehole Lake Drive in Yellowstone National Park have melted from underground thermals that have released heat to the surface.Courtesy National Park Service
You don't go to Yellowstone National Park to look at the roads. The vast array of flora and fauna specimens to observe along with amazing geology make it one of our national treasures.

But the geology part is making it hard to see the bioiogical features of one section of the park. This week heat from underground thermals in the park's lower geyser basin has melted through the surface of the Firehole Lake Drive. And park staff has closed off that section of the park to foot traffic as well, noting that the stirring hot water and energy under the ground could be eroding away and the top surface just be "crust" covering vacant space below.

It's all just another reminder that we're just visitors to the natural forces at play in our wild word.

Nov
04
2008

Yellowstone snowmobiles: A guide leads a pack of snowmobiles through Yellowstone National Park on a recent winter trip.
Yellowstone snowmobiles: A guide leads a pack of snowmobiles through Yellowstone National Park on a recent winter trip.Courtesy National Park Service
A federal judge is working through proposals that would lower the number of snowmobiles that can zip through Yellowstone National Park each year. And as seems to be the case with conflicting ideas over uses of public recreational lands, there are lots of ideas on what the optimum level should be. You can get the full details here.

The newest plan would lower the current snowmobile limits by 40 percent, or 318 snowmobiles a day. That’s a little more than the average of 294 snowmobiles per day the park saw last year, but significantly lower than the 557 that were in the highest daily number recorded last winter.

Pristine snow blanket: Environmental purists want winter in Yellowstone to look more like this without snowmobile noise, exhaust or tracks.
Pristine snow blanket: Environmental purists want winter in Yellowstone to look more like this without snowmobile noise, exhaust or tracks.Courtesy Apollomelos
The judge has been drawn into the debate between environmentalists who want no or minimal snowmobile presence in the park versus snowmobile enthusiasts who enjoy motoring through the picturesque park. Snowmobile limits for the park haven’t been adjusted in 28 years.

What role, if any, do you think snowmobiles should have in a national park like Yellowstone? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Old, faithful and slowing down: Due to recent droughts, the time between eruptions at Yellowstone National Park's Old Faithful geyers is getting longer.
Old, faithful and slowing down: Due to recent droughts, the time between eruptions at Yellowstone National Park's Old Faithful geyers is getting longer.Courtesy Rmhermen
Vacation season is upon us and if you're planning to go to Yellowstone National Park, prepare to wait a little bit longer to see Old Faithful erupt. Due to several years of drought, the iconic geyser has been erupting at longer intervals in recent years. Read more about it here to find out excactly how much longer the waiting time is between eruptions.

Jan
15
2008

That's no hydrothermal explosion: The water blasting from Castle Geyser at Yellowstone National Park is a pop-gun shot compared to the mile-high hydrothermal explosion that rocked the park some 14,000 years ago.
That's no hydrothermal explosion: The water blasting from Castle Geyser at Yellowstone National Park is a pop-gun shot compared to the mile-high hydrothermal explosion that rocked the park some 14,000 years ago.Courtesy Wikipedia
It seems like every few weeks I run into more evidence that Yellowstone has, or will again be, the most violent place on Earth.

Scientists this past weekend at a seminar at our national park jewel heard that some 13,000 years ago, an earthquake created the largest-ever hydrothermal explosion, firing off tsunami-size waves that rumbled out from Lake Yellowstone for miles. Debris from the impact could be found as far as 18 miles away and the steam column from the blast may have risen up has high as a mile.

The result of that explosion was the Mary Bay crater, which stretches across the north end of the lake. The massive water eruption may have released as much as 77 million cubic feet of water. Such explosions happen when hot water below the lake’s bottom suddenly flashes into steam and bursts upwards.

Since that time, researchers also figure there have been around 20 smaller hydrothermal explosions around Yellowstone, leaving behind craters larger than a football field. Even smaller explosions happen on a much more frequent basis, but rarely when people are around or causing significant damage. One such blast in 1989 sent rock and debris 200 feet into the air.

And while bloggers and cable TV stations like to make a big deal about Yellowstone being a super volcano ready to blow again, researchers say it’s much more likely that another hydrothermal explosion will alter the park’s landscape first.

What do you think about all of this? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Nov
08
2007

Yellowstone volcano of the past: A mud volcano in Norris Geyser Basin that was vigorously active in 1947, intermittently ejecting thick mud clots when surface water was scarce, but a surging gray viscous pool when surface water was more abundant, as shown here, when the pool was about 4
Yellowstone volcano of the past: A mud volcano in Norris Geyser Basin that was vigorously active in 1947, intermittently ejecting thick mud clots when surface water was scarce, but a surging gray viscous pool when surface water was more abundant, as shown here, when the pool was about 4
Just last week I had a very concerned visitor here at the museum asking about how soon the volcanic activity around Yellowstone is going to erupt again. In geologic time, it’s due to be real soon. In our human understanding time, it’s probably nothing we need to be overly concerned about.

But new data show that something is brewing up in the Yellowstone region. The volcanic crater left in Yellowstone after its last eruption has been rising in elevation about three inches a year for the last three years, report researchers from the University of Utah.

That growth could be the result of molten rock accumulating and growing underneath the crater. But researchers say there are no signs of an imminent eruption coming.

In fact, many similar volcanic craters around the world regularly rise and fall from such molten activity for decades for centuries before eruptions.

Historically, Yellowstone has been the site of huge volcanic eruptions 2 million, 1.3 million and 642,000 years ago. All of those eruptions were more devastating than the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington in 1980.

Of course, all of that heat and energy trapped beneath Yellowstone help to fuel the geysers that some of the key attractions of the national park that’s primarily in northwestern Wyoming.

I’ve talked with some park rangers who’ve said that the next time Yellowstone blows, we’ll notice the impacts here in Minnesota, even in a significant drop of sunlight getting through ash-filled skies. What do you think? Is a Yellowstone eruption something we need to be freaking out about?