By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Yellowstone National Park experienced 288 earthquakes in May, a scientist with the United States Geological Survey announced this week.
The largest had a magnitude of 3.1 and occurred on May 29 5 miles west of Norris Junction.
“This is pretty average for Yellowstone,” Mike Poland, scientist-in-charge for Yellowstone Volcano Observatory through USGS, said in his monthly update.
Poland posts a video on the first of every month, explaining the volcanic activity and earthquakes that happened in the park throughout the previous month.
According to the National Park Service, Yellowstone is one of the most seismically active areas in the country. Anywhere from 700 to 3,000 earthquakes occur in the Yellowstone area every year, although most aren’t felt.
The earthquakes in Yellowstone result from an extensive network of faults associated with the Yellowstone caldera and surrounding tectonic features. The park’s earthquakes usually occur in swarms, close together in time and space.
The swarms are related to the transport of volcanic fluids along the many small fractures in the shallow rocks over the magma, a pattern that’s been noted in volcanoes around the world.
Earthquakes maintain Yellowstone’s hydrothermal activity, since without the earthquakes’ period disturbance, the small fractures and conduits supplying hot water to the geysers and hot springs might be sealed by mineral deposits.
Some earthquakes can also generate changes in the park’s hydrothermal systems.
In the video, Poland also explained that Steamboat Geyser erupted five times during May and showed where the hot water runs when the geyser erupts.