Investigating Rapid Uplift and Subsidence Near Norris, Yellowstone, During 2013-2014

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Wendy K Stovall, Peter F Cervelli and David R Shelly, US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, United States
Although Yellowstone’s last magmatic eruption occurred about 70,000 years ago, hydrothermal explosions, earthquakes, and ground deformation still occur as testament to ongoing volcanic and tectonic processes. Since the late 1990s, a network of continuously recording Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers has recorded uplift and subsidence of the caldera and northwest caldera margin near Norris Geyser Basin. Previous deformation episodes have shown opposing vertical motion at the two sites, which has been attributed to temporal variations in magmatic fluid flux from the caldera laterally through the Norris-Mammoth fault corridor that intersects the caldera’s northwest margin (Dzurisin et al., 2012; Wicks et al., 2006). These episodes have exhibited gradual changes, transitioning from uplift to subsidence (and vice versa) over weeks to months. Large earthquake swarms accompanied transitions from caldera uplift to subsidence in 1985 and 2010.

Recent deformation in Yellowstone differs from previously observed episodes. In the latter half of 2013, uplift began around Norris, and by January of 2014 it reached rates of over 15 cm/yr. Also at the start of 2014, caldera deformation shifted from approximately 4 years of slow subsidence to slow uplift. On March 30, 2014, a M4.8 earthquake, the largest in Yellowstone since 1980, occurred northwest of Norris Geyser Basin near the center of uplift. Shortly after the event, deformation near Norris abruptly reversed to rapid subsidence (over 20 cm/yr). Caldera uplift began to accelerate around the same time. Thus, uplift can occur simultaneously in both the caldera and the Norris area, and dramatic reversals from rapid uplift to rapid subsidence can occur within a matter of days. While the complexity of the deformation defies a simple explanation, we hypothesize that the rapid transition from uplift to subsidence at Norris may indicate that the M4.8 earthquake opened a pathway for fluid migration away from Norris and allowed an increase in fluid flux beneath the caldera.