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How the Yellowstone flooding could impact earthquakes and eruptions

Regenbogen_im_Yellowstone-Nationalpark.jpg
Wikimedia Commons
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Wikimedia Commons

After historic flooding in Yellowstone National Park, officials say they received a lot of inquiries regarding whether the flooding impacted things like earthquakes and eruptions.

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most seismically active areas in the country. There are up to 3,000 earthquakes that occur each year in the area.

Mike Poland, the scientist-in-charge for the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, said seismic activity likely will not be impacted by the flooding.

“The rate of groundwater infiltration – you know the groundwater getting into the subsurface – is relatively slow, compared to how fast the rivers were carrying the water away,” he said.

Poland added the water that does affect earthquakes in the park comes from deep in the ground, that likely came from rain and snow a long time ago.

However, Poland said it is possible that geysers will be affected, but only time will tell.

“There is a correlation between overall precipitation, rainfall, and geyser activity. In years where we see more precipitation there can be a decrease in the interval between geyser eruptions,” Poland said. “And then when there’s less precipitation there can be an increase in that time.”

Poland said the difference most likely will not be noticeable to the average person, but it will be statistically significant.

More information on the flooding and geological activity in the park can be found here.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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