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Archive for March 6th, 2009

Magnitude 4.2 Quake Strikes W. Montana

Posted by feww on March 6, 2009

A Magnitude 4.2 Quake Strikes Western  Montana Northwest of Yellowstone Plateau volcanic field

A Magnitude 4.2 earthquake struck western  Montana Friday about 193 km (120 miles) northwest of Yellowstone Plateau volcanic field. A 2.2 Mw aftershock followed about 4 minutes later.

Additional seismicity of comparable magnitude may prove  significant for Yellowstone volcano.

10-degree Map Centered at 45°N,110°W

Source: USGS

This Quake: Magnitude 4.2 – WESTERN MONTANA


  • Friday, March 06, 2009 at 11:29:55 UTC
  • Friday, March 06, 2009 at 04:29:55 AM at epicenter

Location:  45.843°N, 112.132°W
Depth:  5 km (3.1 miles) set by location program

  • 4 km (2 miles) SW (221°) from Whitehall, MT
  • 14 km (8 miles) W (260°) from Cardwell, MT
  • 31 km (19 miles) WNW (300°) from Harrison, MT
  • 408 km (254 miles) NE (51°) from Boise, ID
  • 566 km (352 miles) N (358°) from Salt Lake City, UT

Location Uncertainty:  horizontal +/- 4.2 km (2.6 miles); depth fixed by location program
Parameters NST= 52, Nph= 52, Dmin=24.5 km, Rmss=1.53 sec, Gp= 47°,
M-type=local magnitude (ML), Version=6

Event ID: us2009dwa1

Information from Yellowstone Volcano Observatory


  • 44.43°N 110.67°W,
  • Summit Elevation 9203 ft (2805 m)
  • Volcanic Alert Level: NORMAL
  • Aviation Color Code: GREEN

An eruption of Old Faithful, perhaps the world’s best known geyser, rises above Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin. Old Faithful is a periodic geyser, with eruptions to heights of about 40 m at intervals of 30 to 100 minutes. Old Faithful Lodge to the right provides a rustic backdrop to the Upper Geyser Basin, which contains more geysers than are known altogether in the rest of the world. The forested ridge in the background is underlain by massive post-caldera rhyolitic lava flows of the Madison Plateau. Photo by Lee Siebert, 1968 (Smithsonian Institution). Caption: GVP

Current Update, last updated Mar 3, 2009 05:33 MST:

February 2009 Yellowstone Seismicity Summary (Source: YVO)
During the month of February 2009, 51 earthquakes were located in the Yellowstone region. The largest event was a magnitude 2.1 on February 19 at 5:02 PM MST, located about 2 miles north of Fishing Bridge, YNP. There were no swarms during the month of February. Earthquake activity in the Yellowstone region is at relatively normal background levels.

An article on the recent earthquake swarm during December 2008 and January 2009 can be found at:
Scientists continue to look at data collected during the swarm and will publish their results over the coming months and years. However, if any findings have direct implications for public safety, they will be released to the public immediately.

Ground Deformation Summary: Through January 2009, continuous GPS data show that much of the Yellowstone caldera continued moving upward, though at a lower rate than the past several years. The WLWY station, located in the northeastern part of the caldera has undergone ~22 cm of uplift over this time period. The general uplift of the Yellowstone caldera is of scientific importance and will continue to be monitored closely by YVO staff.

An article on the current uplift episode at Yellowstone and discussion of long-term ground deformation at Yellowstone and elsewhere can be found at:

Recent Earthquakes in the Intermountain West:

Yellowstone National Park Special Map

Source: University of Utah Seismograph Stations

Volcanic History Overview (Source: YVO)
The Yellowstone Plateau volcanic field developed through three volcanic cycles spanning two million years that included some of the world’s largest known eruptions. Eruption of the >2450 cu km Huckleberry Ridge Tuff about 2.1 million years ago created the more than 75-km-long Island Park caldera. The second cycle concluded with the eruption of the Mesa Falls Tuff around 1.3 million years ago, forming the 16-km-wide Henrys Fork caldera at the western end of the first caldera. Activity subsequently shifted to the present Yellowstone Plateau and culminated 640,000 years ago with the eruption of the >1000 cu km Lava Creek Tuff and the formation of the present 45 x 85 km caldera. Resurgent doming subsequently occurred at both the NE and SW sides of the caldera and voluminous (1000 cu km) intracaldera rhyolitic lava flows were erupted between 150,000 and 70,000 years ago. No magmatic eruptions have occurred since the late Pleistocene, but large phreatic eruptions took place near Yellowstone Lake during the Holocene. Yellowstone is presently the site of one of the world’s largest hydrothermal systems including Earth’s largest concentration of geysers. (Source: YVO)

Posted in Ground Deformation, hydrothermal system, Madison Plateau, Old Faithful, Yellowstone volcano | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tropics Heat Engine Uses More Fuel

Posted by feww on March 6, 2009

Less Efficient Heat Engine in the Tropics Uses More Fuel

The following image is from Earth Observatory’s archives.

A few years ago, researchers discovered that “incoming solar radiation and outgoing thermal radiation increased in the tropics from the 1980s to the 1990s.” There was less cloud in the atmosphere to block solar radiation reaching the tropics, and to trap the outgoing heat.

Watching the World Rev its Heat Engine

Absorption of solar energy heats up our planet’s surface and the atmosphere and makes life for us possible. But the energy cannot stay bound up in the Earth’s environment forever. If it did then the Earth would be as hot as the Sun. Instead, as the surface and the atmosphere warm, they emit thermal longwave radiation, some of which escapes into space and allows the Earth to cool. This false-color image of the Earth was produced on September 30, 2001, by the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument flying aboard NASA?s Terra spacecraft. The image shows where more or less heat, in the form of longwave radiation, is emanating from the top of Earth’s atmosphere.

As one can see in the image, the thermal radiation leaving the oceans is fairly uniform. The blue swaths across the central Pacific represent thick clouds, the tops of which are so high they are among the coldest places on Earth. In the American Southwest, which can be seen in the upper righthand corner of the globe, there is often little cloud cover to block outgoing radiation and relatively little water to absorb solar energy. Consequently, the amount of outgoing radiation in the American Southwest exceeds that of the oceans. Also, that region was experiencing an extreme heatwave when these data were acquired.

Recently, NASA researchers discovered that incoming solar radiation and outgoing thermal radiation increased in the tropics from the 1980s to the 1990s. (Click to read the press release.) They believe that the reason for the unexpected increase has to do with an apparent change in circulation patterns around the globe, which effectively reduced the amount of water vapor and cloud cover in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Without the clouds, more sunlight was allowed to enter the tropical zones and more thermal energy was allowed to leave. The findings may have big implications for climate change and future global warming.

This suggests that the tropical heat engine increased its speed,” observes Dr. Bruce Wielicki, of NASA Langley Research Center. “It’s as if the heat engine in the tropics has become less efficient, using more fuel in the 1990s than in the 1980s.”

Image courtesy Barbara Summey, NASA Goddard Visualization Analysis Lab, based upon data processed by Takmeng Wong, CERES Science Team, NASA Langley Research Center. Caption: Earth Observatory, NASA

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