Early Sunday Yellowstone National Park experienced a 4.8 magnitude earthquake, the strongest earthquake to strike inside the national park’s limits in 34 years. Scientists say there is no cause for concern regarding the earthquake and possible volcanic eruptions at Yellowstone Caldera, one of the world’s super-volcanoes located at Yellowstone National Park.
The 4.8 quake was preceded by two foreshocks measuring at 2.8 and 3.0 respectively. After the main shock came four aftershocks measuring between 2.5 and 3.3. No signs of damage as the park is largely empty this time of year.
In December, 2013 it was discovered that the molten magma chamber below Yellowstone Caldera is much larger than previously understood. The chamber occupies an area that is 55 miles long, 18 miles wide and as far as 9 miles under the Earth’s surface, roughly double the size of previous calculations. Yellowstone Caldera can erupt with as much as 2,000 times the force of Mount St. Helens in Washington state.
Researchers do believe that the volcano will erupt again, but what is staggering is the expectation of effect. Scientists believe that the Yellowstone Caldera will create such a powerful eruption, it will be felt in some manner worldwide. The last time the volcano erupted was 640,000 years ago. While scientists cannot predict when Caldera will erupt again, they are constantly monitoring the land around the volcano for any unusual seismic activity. According to researchers, the Caldera experiences between 1 and 20 earthquakes daily, most are very weak, measuring up to much less than a 3.0 on the Richter scale. Each earthquake that takes place within Yellowstone’s boundaries are taken with great seriousness.
Geologists are closely monitoring the rise of the Yellowstone Plateau. The rise of the Yellowstone Caldera floor between 2004 and 2008 is estimated at almost 3 inches (about 7 cm) each year, according to a University of Utah scientists report in the journal Science in November 2008. That was more than three times greater than ever observed since such measurements began in 1923.
The biggest earthquake to hit Yellowstone National Park happened on August 17, 1959. The quake, also known as the Hegben Lake earthquake measured between 7.3 and 7.5 on the Richter scale. At the time, recording data instruments did not exist to pin point exactly how big earthquakes are. This, the largest Yellowstone earthquake caused a major landslide which in turn caused 28 deaths and over $11 million in damages, equating to well over $75 million in today’s dollars.
The fact remains that the Caldera at Yellowstone is incurring greater risk with each passing Yellowstone Earthquake.