Steamboat Geyser in steam phase, September 2014
Steamboat Geyser, 2014

Yellowstone Norris Geyser Basin: After Activity, All is Quiet

One nugget to come out of a conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem last week: movement of the Yellowstone Norris Geyser Basin had been measured by sensors to be moving southeast and upward, but the activity ceased after an April 2014 earthquake.

It’s the third piece of increased activity at the Yellowstone Norris Geyser Basin to be announced in the past few years. Last year geologists announced measurable movement of the Yellowstone Norris Geyser Basin to the south and east. Then, in 2013 we saw the first eruption of Steamboat Geyser since 2005, followed by a 2014 eruption. Since then, geologists have measured movement upward. Cue the alarmists, who predict on a weekly basis that the Yellowstone volcano will be exploding shortly. But U.S. Geological Survey scientist Peter Cervelli says these developments aren’t necessarily related, and that the movements are caused by events happening deep underground, not at the magma level:

“In spite of the fact that I was really mesmerized by this coincidence in time, in retrospect it turned out it probably doesn’t have anything to do — that is the Steamboat eruption is probably totally independent from this other observation,” Cervelli said.

A few months later the Norris Geyser Basin started moving centimeters upward. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory put out a statement to dispel talk of impending doom.

“Sometimes the most important thing we do is tell people when the volcano is not erupting,” Cervelli said.

In fact, an April 2014 earthquake at the Yellowstone Norris Geyser Basin halted much of the measurable movement, with reading going back to normal. Which is where things stand right now.

Photo of steam phase of Steamboat Geyser, Norris Geyser Basin as seen from Elk Park, by Jim Peaco; September 2014; courtesy National Park Service.

RELATED STORIES: Steamboat Geyser Erupts for First Time in Eight Years

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