Yellowstone Geo Blogs

One winter back in the mid-nineties, I was traveling around Yellowstone on a snowmobile doing sound for an NHK film crew.  At one particular stop, I believe it was Black Sand Basin, several snowmobiles were parked while their drivers were viewing the hotsprings.  As I walked back to my snowmobile, I witnessed a raven land on a backpack bungied to one of the parked snowmobiles.  He/she deftly grabbed the zipper on top of the backpack and zipped it open.  The coal black grifter then stuck it's head into the pack and pulled out a cellphone which it promptly threw to the ground.  Then ducking its head into the unzipped backpack again, the black forager pulled out a fully wrapped Snickers Bar.  It glanced around with bar in beak to make sure a clean getaway was possible, then flew away with the fat Snickers Bar.  At that time, I was amazed to see the thoughtful process of the Yellowstone raven.  Now, Dr. Alex Taylor, a scientist in the UK has empirically shown the incredible intelligence of the crow.  Watch the video below from the BBC Youtube Channel!

Yesterday the YVO staff wrote:

We have received enough concerned emails and phone calls that we've spent some time tracking down a few of the statements made on various "alternative Internet news sources."

1) First, everyone should know that geological activity, including earthquakes and ground uplift/subsidence is well within historical norms and seismicity is actually a bit low at present.

2) Concern over road closures is much overblown. There's been one road closure of a small side road - just over three miles long - that was closed for two days. As one can imagine, it is not easy to maintain roads that pass over thermal areas where ground temperatures can approach those of boiling water. Roads at Yellowstone often need repair because of damage by thermal features as well as extreme cold winter conditions.

3) The park has not been evacuated. This one is pretty easy to verify by everyone. If the Old Faithful webcam shows people, or if news articles are coming out about a hobbyist's remote control helicopter crashing into a hot spring, Yellowstone is certainly open for business.

4) No volcanologists have stated that Yellowstone is likely to erupt this week, this month or this year. In one recent article, a name was attributed to a "senior volcanologist", but that person does not appear to exist, and a geologist with that name assures us that he did not supply any quotes regarding Yellowstone.

5) Finally, we note that those who've kept track of Yellowstone over the past decade or so, have seen a constant stream of "predictions" regarding imminent eruptions at Yellowstone. Many have had specific dates in mind, none had a scientific basis, and none have come true.

We will continue to provide updates on geological activity at Yellowstone, and educational materials to help understand the science around Yellowstone monitoring.

Virtually everything known about Yellowstone's spectacular volcanic past comes from the scientists who work at this observatory, at all our eight member agencies. We're the ones who mapped the deposits, figured out the ages of the eruptions, measured the gases, located the earthquakes, and tracked the ground movement. A few of us have been doing it for over forty years. We will continue to help you understand what's happening at Yellowstone now, and what's likely to happen in the future.

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

I'm thinking this Sunday morning about the souls lost in the catastrophic mudslide in Oso, Washington last week. Our species, indeed, all species on earth are so fragile.  The slightest hiccup in earth processes, barely noticeable in a macro view can devastate a population.  A collision of air masses, shifting of a small crack in the earth's crust, a subtle warming of the ocean all can devastate organisms be they human, avian or marine invertebrate.

As a dominant species on our frail planet, common sense would seem to suggest that we be cautious about manipulations of our environment.  Injecting lubricating fluids into the earth to force out potential fuels is a revolutionary idea.  We all use and need energy for our existence and the pursuit of innovation.  But, we should be extremely selective about where we execute such a procedure when the health of a community's drinking water might be at stake?  In our world, profits grossly outweigh common sense - especially when the profiters or profiteers are not directly affected by the consequences.

The sad outcome of the mudslide in Oso could have been prevented.  There were strong warnings of the potential for a large earth movement in the area.  Yet, many of the houses were built in the last few years.  Some owners, it appears, had no idea of the risk.  I would say that it is incumbent upon the realtors and land owners who would profit from the sale of such lands to be aware of the risks and to convey that information to the potential purchaser. Knowing this information and not conveying it should be a criminal act in my estimation.

My thoughts are with the families who lost loved ones in the devastating debris flow.  We can only hope that we come away with a better understanding and more thoughtful view of our interaction with the dynamic earth on which we live.