New Thermal Activity In Yellowstone National Park

Apr 10, 2019

Scientists have discovered a new thermal area in Yellowstone National Park. The area is roughly the size of four football fields and is located in the northeast corner of the park.

Greg Vaughan, a United States Geological Survey (USGS) research scientist, tracks thermal areas using satellites that measure heat being emitted from the ground. He said one day he noticed a hot spot that did not correspond with previously mapped thermal areas. So, he went through the archives of the past images.

"You can go back through time and see, ok, this area used to be covered by trees and now it's an area where there's a bunch of dead trees, bright soil and it's a hot spot," said Vaughan.

Vaughan said thermal areas are formed when water or snow is heated by magma below the surface and then comes back to the ground through cracks and fractures in the ground [like a plumbing system]. Hot springs and geyser are often indicators of a hot spot. But he says the plumbing system can change.

"There are earthquakes very frequently and it can change the orientation of the plumbing system," said Vaughan. "It can close some areas and reopen some others."

Back in 2003, a thermal area appeared in the park that was about the size of one football field.