Yellowstone Earthquake Swarm Nothing to Worry About

July 21, 2017 Updated: July 21, 2017

The University of Utah has been monitoring an earthquake swarm in Yellowstone National Park that started around June 12 with a cluster of 1,284 events recorded over a one-week period, almost as many as are typically recorded in a year.

Most of the activity has been so small it hasn’t been felt at all, with the biggest one being a June 15 magnitude 4.4 earthquake. Besides the 4.4 quake, the university only had reports of four others that were felt, it said on July 19.

Seven of the quakes were in the magnitude 3 range, 105 in the magnitude 2 range, 407 in the magnitude 1 range, and 28 in the range of magnitude “less than zero,” according to the report.

On average, the University of Utah Seismograph Stations (UUSS) locates between around 1,500 and 2,000 earthquakes annually in the Yellowstone region.

When asked if it was safe to go near the supervolcano at the park, Jamie Farrell, assistant research professor of seismology at the University of Utah, told Fox 13 that people don’t need to cancel their travel plans.

“This is how volcanoes act, and it’s pretty normal,” he said.

There have been three major eruptions in the Yellowstone area in the last 2.1 million years—the most recent being 640,000 years ago.

All three created calderas—large craters formed by the collapse of the volcano’s mouth. Numerous smaller eruptions have filled in the calderas, with the most recent of those being 70,000 years ago.

Besides volcanoes, the area is also prone to sizable earthquakes, the most memorable being in 1959, just west of the park in Madison Canyon that had a magnitude of 7.3. In total, 28 people died in that earthquake. By comparison, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti—which killed at least 100,000, and displaced hundreds of thousands more—was measured at a magnitude 7.0.

Despite the rumbling, earthquake swarms are common National Park, says the university, and on average, make up about half of the total seismic activity in the Yellowstone region.

To illustrate the recent seismic activity, the university has a map on it’s website that shows regular updates on any earthquakes that appear, covering an area from Arizona to as far north as Montana.

A live map of earthquakes in the Yellowstone National Park region on the University of Utah's website on July 21, 2017. (Screenshot via quakes.utah.edu)
A live map of earthquakes in the Yellowstone National Park region on the University of Utah’s website on July 21, 2017. (Screenshot/quakes.utah.edu)

From NTD Television