Yellowstone National Park is well-known for its geyser activity, which are created by magma and superheated fluids boiling under the surface. It has created a wonderland of natural activity that brings tourists in from around the world.
But there's one part of the park that appears to breathe. An area under the center of the Norris Geyser Basin expands and contracts due to geological activity under the surface. Geologists have been fascinated by the phenomenon and have published their findings in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.
To do the research, scientists have studied decades of GPS and radar data to measure the changes in the surface above. Their theories state that a bunch of magma got under the Norris Geyser Basin in the late 1990s. As the magma released heated fluids, they flowed up into the ground above it, where it would get caught. The fluid would heat and expand and push out against the ground, causing it to swell, and then the fluid would be able to move again and the ground would eventually go back down again. This has continued for some time, and the magma is now a mile or so beneath the surface.
“In all likelihood, Norris has been a center of deformation for a very long time,” says Daniel Dzurisin, a research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cascades Volcano Observatory and one of the co-authors of the new research.
“We’re only just beginning to understand just how dynamic [Norris Geyser Basin] is,” says Michael Poland, the scientist-in-charge at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Yellowstone Volcano Observatory who wasn’t involved in the new research.
The other effect that this had on the region is the increase in the activity of the Steamboat Geyser. The Steamboat Geyser is the world's tallest active geyser and has been erupting with increased regularity since March 2018.