How Yellowstone Conspiracy Theories Start and Why They’re Wrong
Conspiracy theories about an imminent eruption of the Yellowstone super-volcano are a dime-a-dozen. For years, amateurs on YouTube declare the end is near and it's happened again. It's a great example of how these theories start and why they're wrong.
I saw this new video shared recently. I mean no offense to the channel's creator as he often shares interesting content. However, he's completely wrong about what's going on at Yellowstone this week. In fairness to him, here's his "theory."
What he's referring to are seismographs that monitor the different parts of Yellowstone National Park and the super-volcano that is present there. To an untrained eye, it could look like something strange is happening. He said "ground tilt causes seismographs to tilt" and there you have the beginning of a conspiracy theory about uplift at Yellowstone. The problem is he's completely wrong.
I reached out again to Mike Poland who is the current Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. He explained what this seismograph really shows and why the amateurs get it wrong every single time:
Mike Poland - "Seismometers don't tell you much about ground deformation (they record ground shaking, not permanent deformation). For deformation, people should be looking at GPS stations, which measure motion of the ground directly in 3 dimensions. There are several places to look at these data, for example:
Just zoom/scroll to the area of interest and click on any of the GPS stations to see ground motion in that area. For example, P456, on the north side of Hebgen Lake, near where the 1959 earthquake occurred (http://geodesy.unr.edu/NGLStationPages/stations/P456.sta).
Based on these data, there's no change in deformation style in the Hebgen Lake area."
You might remember that Hebgen Lake was the location of a tragic 7.2 earthquake in 1959 that killed 28 people. The fact that a weird-looking seismograph happened in that region just adds fuel to the conspiracy theory fire.
Mike has been kind enough to share with us in the past that real concern for the Yellowstone super-volcano would be when the hundreds of earthquakes in the park every month (that are normal) would suddenly become thousands and there would be uplift in all areas of the park and not just slight changes. That's not happening at this point and the scientists like Mike that have their eyes on this every day will be the first to raise the alarm IF it's warranted.
Let this be a teachable moment the next time someone on YouTube starts screaming about an imminent event in Yellowstone that we need to trust the real science that continues to monitor the super-volcano. The "eruptions" at Yellowstone remain just a fun (fictional) movie moment.