Yellowstone Lake Bulge Making News Again?

by Mark McGlothlin on January 23, 2011

in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Lake’s bulging floor has made the news again – Natl Geo’s Daily News blog featured the story on the 19th.


No, there’s nothing new to report.  No, there hasn’t been another swarm of earthquakes attracting ‘end of the worlders’ by the busload.

Turns out additional research regarding the bulge and associated magma bubble was published in the Dec 3, 2010 issue of the Geophysical Research Letters and prompted professional and amateur geophysicists around the globe to trot out the exploding caldera hypothesis yet again.

Turns out the magma bubble is a bit deeper than first hypothesized and suggests the oft talked about eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera is likely not as imminent as suggested in late 2008 and early 2009.  From the NG blog –

Scientists think a swelling magma reservoir four to six miles (seven to ten kilometers) below the surface is driving the uplift. Fortunately, the surge doesn’t seem to herald an imminent catastrophe, Smith said.

“At the beginning we were concerned it could be leading up to an eruption,” said Smith, who co-authored a paper on the surge published in the December 3, 2010, edition of Geophysical Research Letters.

“But once we saw [the magma] was at a depth of ten kilometers, we weren’t so concerned. If it had been at depths of two or three kilometers [one or two miles], we’d have been a lot more concerned.”

Studies of the surge, he added, may offer valuable clues about what’s going on in the volcano’s subterranean plumbing, which may eventually help scientists predict when Yellowstone’s next volcanic “burp” will break out.

The surge of quake activity in late 2008 and early 2009 brought some genuine wackos to the greater Yellowstone area to observe the explosion that would in their bedazzled view lead to the end of the world.   They sang and chanted and waited.   The entertainment was short lived – winters are genuinely cold that time of year.

Frankly I hope to be standing about here on the Yellowstone River when the Caldera blows – a front row seat, thrilling for several seconds and then over in a flash.

One of my most beloved mentors has repeatedly said we should all plan to go out in a flash of glory.

Timing will be a bit of an issue, but I can’t think of a better place to do it.