Sixty years in the past the Yellowstone area was rocked by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake which killed a number of folks and left scars on the Earth which can be nonetheless seen right now.
The Hebgen Lake earthquake—as it’s identified—occurred on August 17, 1959 at 11:37 p.m. MST in Madison Canyon, simply exterior the western boundary of Yellowstone National Park. It lasted for about 40 seconds, with a number of sturdy aftershocks reported later.
Six a long time later, it stays the most important earthquake ever recorded within the Rocky Mountains. In truth, it was one of many strongest ever recorded in North America, comparable in energy to the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
“We often hear about the potential for large volcanic eruptions of the Yellowstone volcano in the news and on television shows,” Jamie Farrell, assistant analysis professor on the University of Utah and Chief Seismologist of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, wrote in a blog post for the United States Geological Survey (USGS.)
“However, we rarely focus on the threat of large earthquakes in the region, even though the hazard and risk from these types of events is much larger than a volcanic eruption because they happen so much more frequently,” Farrell wrote.
The quake led to the deaths of 28 people, nearly all of whom had been killed in a big landslide which despatched 180 million tons of rock, mud and particles hurtling down into the Madison Canyon at speeds of round 100 miles per hour, producing hurricane-strength winds within the course of, Timeline reported. This particles dammed the Madison River, resulting in the formation of Earthquake Lake—which measures round six miles in size and extends to a depth of round 190 ft.
The quake additionally had a number of different notable impacts, along with the landslide. For instance, the seismic tremors brought about components of the panorama to drop by as a lot as 20 ft, creating what are often called “fault scarps”—offsets within the floor the place one aspect of a fault strikes up or down in relation to the opposite aspect.
These scarps—which might nonetheless be seen right now on the Hebgen Lake and Red Canyon faults—broken highways, which together with landslide, trapped a number of vacationers in Madison Canyon on the day of the quake.
The seismic shockwaves had been so highly effective that they produced giant waves in Lake Hebden lasting for round 12 hours, which nearly breached its dam a number of instances. Known as “seiche waves,” this phenomena happens in enclosed or partially enclosed our bodies of water.
The quake was felt so far as 350 miles away and brought about rock slides in Yellowstone National Park. But maybe its most intriguing results had been on the park’s well-known hydrothermal options.
“By the day after the earthquake, at least 289 springs in the geyser basins of the Firehole River had erupted as geysers; of these, 160 were springs with no previous record of eruption,” Farrell wrote. “At least 590 springs had become turbid [cloudy or opaque.] During the first few days after the earthquake, most springs began to clear, but several years passed before clearing was generally complete.”
“In addition, new sizzling floor quickly developed in some locations and this turned extra obvious by the next spring with the formation of latest fractures. Some new fractures developed domestically into fumaroles, and some of those developed into sizzling springs or geysers.
Farrell stresses that the world round Yellowstone—in addition to giant components of the Western United States—is vulnerable to earthquakes.
“Earthquakes occur almost daily within the area, and sometimes the world produces sturdy earthquakes which can be able to affecting giant areas and inflicting injury,” he wrote. “We ought to anticipate related results if one other earthquake of this measurement would to occur right now, besides there are various extra folks visiting the world right now than there have been in the summertime of 1959. The extra we’re ready for earthquakes, the higher we might be after one occurs.”