Earthquake at Yellowstone is News!
Yesterday, Yellowstone National Park experienced the strongest earthquake in some fifty years. It registered 4.8 on the Richter scale and was strong enough to shake a few buildings and a few people around. Fortunately this time of the year there are few visitors at the park being that Yellowstone is still quite cold and so there were few people around to experience the thrill. It was not a very powerful earthquake in absolute terms, but it is something to think about.
Yellowstone park is in reality a gigantic Volcanic Caldera, of a type of volcano often denoted as a Super-Volcano because of both its size, usually tens of miles in diameter and because of the large amounts of ash that is released when such a volcano erupts. However, most of the time these volcanoes will actually have much smaller eruptions on the way to the gigantic ones.
Yellowstone last erupted in the super category some 640,000 years ago. At that time it spewed out a thousand cubic miles of ash. That’s more than enough to bury most of the Midwest. So, even a small earthquake here is something to think about. But since that time it has had a number of smaller eruptions. Though smaller, these too can be noticeable. As on one occasion it apparently emptied all of Yellowstone lake and no doubt the tsunami of boiling water was no fun for the poor animals in its way. So even a “small” eruption at Yellowstone could be a serious problem for those in the area.
Earthquakes are known to precede large eruptions in other kinds of volcanoes. For example the eruptions of prominent volcanoes over the last few decades was almost always preceded by some seismic activity a few months to a few weeks before erupting. Indonesia’s last few volcanic eruptions of significant magnitude did have some earthquake activity. We do not as yet know if this earthquake at Yellowstone will mean that anything significant will happen, but being that it is a slumbering giant, we should be interested.
It turns out that there has been some activity in the west recently. Large swarms of earthquakes have plagued Oklahoma and have been somewhat mysterious. Some have attributed the Oklahoma quakes to fracking, which is the process by which old oil wells are mined for natural gas. This process involves loosening the ground beneath and causing stress imbalances and ground instability. So there is a chance that the large amount of Fracking activity is the source of these earthquakes, but there is also a good chance that the earthquakes are quite natural, and that leaves us to speculate that maybe just maybe the activity in the Oklahoma region might have something to do with the earthquake in Yellowstone. Though Oklahoma is quite a distance from Yellowstone, we are not convinced that earthquakes are solitary occurrences. There may be long distance relations. Much scientific speculation has gone that way recently.
There is some reason to believe that earthquakes caused naturally could quite possibly be related even if they are far apart. So if an earthquake occurs in Illinois for example, it might well be related to one that might occur further south. There is some reason to believe this since we have often observed such relationships in the past. This same phenomenon has shown itself in Japan’s faults where the fault system is perturbed by movements hundreds of miles to the North or South when a shift causes an earthquake. In the end what is true is that we only know what we can see at the surface, but time and again we have been reminded that what we see at the surface in terms of faults can often be the tip of a fiery iceberg in that below the surface titanic forces may be at work that are virtually invisible to us at the surface. So it a good idea to keep all earthquake activity in mind, especially when it comes to Yellowstone, or Long Valley in California which can portend a worldwide calamity.
So perhaps there is something going on in the deep earth out in the Western United States for there to be all this activity in Yellowstone and Oklahoma and California. It could also be due to the turning of the season. The pull of the sun is not minimal as many geologists are prone to think. The Sun and Moon can combine to cause significant tidal changes in the Earth’s crust and inner constitution. Over millions of rotations it is quite possible that these stresses induced on the earth may cause a higher potential for earthquakes; especially during those periods when the earth is facing the two celestial bodies in unison. That is when the moon and sun are lined up in the same direction, and the earth’s poles are tilted towards the Sun. The combined tidal force could increase the chances of seismic or volcanic activity.
In the end, geological relations are not simple cause and effect relations. They are stochastic in nature, subject to chance that is. After many times the right pre-requisites may be present to cause a seismic motion, or a volcanic discharge. But there is never a one to one relationship as is often expected in macro physics where for example the law of gravity is expected to act the same way every time it is applied. Yet even in physics we have learned that our illusions of macro reliability and inviolability is shattered when we look at the quantum level. The laws of quantum physics are subject to chance. So Geologists may be forced to recast their demands on the science from one that requires direct consistent relationships, to a science based on chance relationships that only on certain opportune times can be predictable..
Too often we hear of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions happening during the summer months, and at full moon. This may not be an unrelated occurrence.
What does that mean for the recent earthquake at Yellowstone? We don’t know. But even a relatively small eruption at the national park can be quite catastrophic and we would do well to keep an eye out on the slumbering giant at Yellowstone. When he shall awaken, the whole world will be shaken.
Long Valley Caldera is also a Super Volcano that last erupted six hundred thousand years ago. It is located in the mid state region of California not far from Reno Nevada, and just to the east of Yosemite national park. see Long Valley
There is one more Super Volcano in the United States and that’s in New Mexico. The Valles Caldera is smaller than Long Valley and Yellowstone and seems to have erupted much further back in time some 1.15 million years ago. However, it had a smaller eruption 60,000 years ago. see Valles Caldera
A beautiful volcanic landscape can also be seen in Flagstaff Arizona, not too far from Las Vegas. There the San Francisco Peak towers to some 12,000 feet, and below are large deposits of lava spewed out some 1,000 years ago. This too is active, and will probably erupt sometime in the future. see San Francisco Peaks