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Yellowstone Earthquakes Swarm Not Signal of Supervolcano Eruption

Image: Yellowstone Earthquakes Swarm Not Signal of Supervolcano Eruption

By    |   Thursday, 22 Feb 2018 08:34 AM

A recent Yellowstone earthquake swarm is not a signal of an impending supervolcano eruption, researchers said this week.

More than 200 earthquakes have shaken Yellowstone National Park since Feb. 8. Earthquake swarms happen when a single area experiences an increase in tremors over a short period of time without the trigger of a single, larger "mainshock," National Geographic said.

The swarm happened about eight miles northeast of West Yellowstone, Montana, but National Geographic wrote that earthquake swarms are frequent in the region, accounting for more than half of the parks' seismic activity.

The largest earthquake during the swarm reached a magnitude 2.9, and all of them have hit about five miles beneath the surface, per the National Geographic.

"This is approximately the same place as last summer's Maple Creek swarm, which included about 2,400 earthquakes during June-September 2017," Mike Poland, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey and Jamie Farrell, assistant research professor with the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, wrote on the survey's website.

"In fact, the current swarm may be just a continuation of the Maple Creek swarm, given the ongoing but sporadic seismicity in the area over the past several months," they wrote.

LiveScience.com wrote that Yellowstone experiences from 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes per year with a magnitude 7.3 quake in Hebgen Lake hitting the area in 1959.

Michael Poland, scientist-in-charge of the USGS Yellowstone Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington, told LiveScience.com, that last year's swarm was bigger than the current one, which produced one earthquake at magnitude 4.4.

"This particular area, especially, is a hotbed of swarm seismicity, and it has been for quite a while," Poland told LiveScience.com. "One of the potential explanations for why this area is so swarmy is that the whole crust in the area is still adjusting to the big earthquake in 1959."

Poland said, according to LiveScience.com, that larger earthquakes are an "underappreciated risk" at Yellowstone.

"People tend to focus on the possibility of a huge eruption, which is vanishingly small," but magnitude-7 earthquakes could happen comparatively more often, Poland told LiveScience.com.

"When they do happen, they're going to shake the region pretty severely, so people should be prepared for that," Poland added.

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Yellowstone National Park has seen a swarm of 200 earthquakes since Feb. 8, but scientists say the activity is not a sign of a supervolcano eruption.
yellowstone, earthquakes, swarm, supervolcano
Thursday, 22 Feb 2018 08:34 AM
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