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A huge number of earthquakes hit Yellowstone National Park in 2017 and 2018, sparking concerns that they could eventually lead to an eruption of the world’s largest super volcano.
But a new study suggests that the ” earthquakes actually aftershocks of another seismic event — 60 years.
The research, published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters, looks at the 3,345 earthquakes that have occurred in the vicinity of Maple Creek, Yellowstone, between June 12, 2017, and March 13, 2018, and found that a significant number of earthquakes came from the same fault line and the direction of the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake.
Map of the Maple Creek swarm, created using data from the Seismograph Stations. (Credit: USGS)
YELLOWSTONE’S GEYSERS ARE MORE ACTIVE AND NO ONE KNOWS WHY
“We find that the 2017-2018 Maple Creek sequence differs from the previous three major swarms in that many of the earthquakes can best be categorized as late aftershocks of the 1959 … Hebgen Lake earthquake,” the researchers wrote in clear language an overview. The Hegben Lake earthquake was a 7.2 magnitude and was responsible for the death of 28 people.
“This kind of earthquakes in Yellowstone are very common,” said University of Utah geoscientist and study co-author, Buyer, in a statement. “This swarms happens very often. This was a bit longer and had more events than normal.”
Unlike other natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes or forest fires, the Buyer added that earthquakes can continue for a long period of time. “Earthquakes do not happen as a single discrete event in time,” he said.
Damage from the August 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake. (Credit: I. J. Witkind/USGS)
Although uncommon, earthquakes sending tremors years later, it is not unheard of. Buyer and Pang cited examples of the 1983 Borah Peak earthquake in central Idaho that sent aftershocks until the end of 2017.
“There are formulas to predict how many aftershocks you have to see,” the Buyer continued. “For Hebgen Lake, there seemed to be a shortage in the number of aftershocks. Now that we have had, has evened things out a backup of the original expectations.”
EARTH STRUCK BY A HUGE METEORITE THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO: “IT ROCKED THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE”
The purchaser and the study’s lead author, Guanning Pang, have attributed about half of the 2017 and 2018 earthquakes to the Hebgen Lake quake, but the other half seem to have a different origin. They believe that the of the magma moving under the surface, if the southern cluster was rotated 30 degrees and about 0.6 km shallower than the northern cluster.
“We consider it as a swarm all together,” Buyer ” he said. “Because they are so close to each other, there was some feedback and influence between the two departments.”
Plot of size versus time in colour matching subsets of earthquakes. The warm colors mark earthquakes in the north of the cluster, and the cool colors mark the earthquakes in the south of the cluster. (Credit: Univ. Utah)
But how about those who are concerned that the increase of seismic activity would lead to the world’s largest super volcano to erupt, disrupting nearly everything in his path? You have nothing to worry about, according to the researchers.
“We don’t think it will increase the risk of an eruption,” Pang added.
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