December 9, 1997
Some parts of Yellowstone National Park not only hiss, belch and fume, the whole park also “breathes,” according to research by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, who will presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Dec. 10.
The presentation by Kenneth Pierce of the USGS in Denver, Colo., and Dan Dzurisin of the USGS in Vancouver, Wash., will offer geologic evidence which shows that the central part of Yellowstone has been uplifting and subsiding or “breathing” about five times during the last 9,000 years. Their presentation is part of a session dedicated to the memory of Rick Hutchinson, a Yellowstone geologist killed in a backcountry avalanche last winter.
“A Yellowstone breath takes about one to three thousand years,” according to Pierce, who has studied the geology and archaeology of the Yellowstone Lake shorelines and drowned valleys for the past two years. “Inflation of about 25 feet has been documented, and if extended to the edge of the historic dome, equals a rise or “breath” inflation of about 100 feet, followed by deflation of a similar amount.”
“The volume of each breath is about 20 cubic kilometers; thus, whatever is driving this subterranean process is large, at present mysterious, and could be dangerous,” Pierce concluded.