A chunk of Yellowstone the size of Chicago has been pulsing. Why?

by R.G. Andrews, March 19, 2020 in NationalGeographic

An injection of magma under Norris Geyser Basin may be why the region is five inches higher today than it was 20 years ago.

In northwestern Wyoming, in the center of Yellowstone National Park, a bubbling caldera is the scar of a 640,000-year-old, gargantuan volcanic eruption. The 3,472-square-mile park encompassing the caldera is filled with geologic wonderlands of sprouting geysers and effervescing pools, all ultimately driven by magma and superheated fluids churning in the rock below the surface.

One of these areas, Norris Geyser Basin to the northwest of the caldera, contains more than 500 hydrothermal features. These tempestuous geysers and pools often change from day to day, but a much larger transformation has been taking place as well: For more than two decades, an area larger than Chicago centered near the basin has been inflating and deflating by several inches in erratic bursts. In a hyperactive volcanic region like Yellowstone, the exact causes of any specific movement are difficult to pin down. But a recent study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth may help explain why this pocket of land has been breathing in and out.

“In all likelihood, Norris has been a center of deformation for a very long time,” says Daniel Dzurisin, a research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cascades Volcano Observatory and one of the co-authors of the new research.

Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.