Astrogeology Science Center

Watching a Sleeping Giant

14 August 2017

Sleeping giants, like the supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park, can reawaken even after many thousands of years have passed since their last eruption. Cataclysmic eruptions, like the one 630,000 years ago, could severely damage human infrastructure across half a continent and the environment on a global scale. Predicting volcanic eruptions is difficult not just because it is hard to peer deep within the Earth but also because each volcano has a “personality” such that methods that worked at one volcano may not lead to good predictions at another. The good news is many scientists are watching this slumbering giant with ever more sophisticated tools. Learn how the multi-agency study by USGS Scientists Greg Vaughan, Laszlo Keszthelyi, and others, is improving monitoring of Yellowstone’s geothermal output using infrared images from satellites.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Landscape, Volcanic. Image Credit:Pixabay

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Landscape, Volcanic. Image Credit:Pixabay


Excerpt:“The aim of this study was to use satellite thermal infrared (TIR) remote sensing to monitor geothermal activity within Yellowstone geothermal area (YGA) to meet the missions of both the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service. Specific goals were to 1) address the challenges of monitoring the surface thermal characteristics of the> 10,000 spatially and temporally dynamic thermal features in the YGA (including hot springs, pools, geysers, fumaroles, and mud pots), by using satellite TIR remote sensing tools (e.g., ASTER and MODIS), 2) to estimate the radiant geothermal heat flux for individual thermal areas and for the entire YGA, and 3) to identify normal, background thermal changes so that significant, abnormal changes can be recognized, should they ever occur (e.g., thermal changes related to tectonic or hydrothermal activity, volcanic unrest, or geothermal development).”

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