GEO ExPro

New Thermal Area Discovered in Yellowstone National Park

Using Landsat-8 thermal infrared images, geoscientists at the Yellowstone Volcanic Observatory recently identified the emergence of an entirely new thermal area in the National Park.
This article appeared in April, 2019

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New Thermal Area Discovered in Yellowstone National Park

Image by David Mark from Pixabay. Yellowstone National Park is known for its geothermal activity, such as geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mudpots. These are all classic features of thermal areas, which are areas characterised by relatively high heat flow reflecting Yellowstone’s underlying caldera and ‘supervolcano’. The Park has about 10,000 continually changing thermal areas, constantly heating, cooling and moving around.

Using Landsat-8 thermal infrared images, geoscientists at the Yellowstone Volcanic Observatory recently identified the emergence of an entirely new thermal area. Analysis of a thermal infrared image acquired in April 2017 revealed an unexpected warm area near West Tern Lake that did not match any previously mapped thermal area. Using high resolution aerial imagery, they realised that there was a large number of dead trees and altered soil in this area, symptomatic of the ground above a thermal area. By comparing modern images with aerial photographs going back to the early ‘90s, it can be seen that this has developed within the past 20 years.

  • High-spatial-resolution airborne images of the Tern Lake area from 1994, 2006, and 2017. The area of bright pixels identified in the Landsat-8 thermal infrared image corresponds to a newly emerging area of warm ground and tree kills about 32,500 m2 (8 acres, or 4 soccer fields) in area. The air photo from 2006 shows the beginnings of a tree kill zone. The black and white air photo from 1994 shows no evidence of a newly emerging thermal area. Lakes are outlined in blue; known thermal areas are outlined in red; and the red triangles are individual thermal features that have been mapped. Source: USGS.

Further Reading on Yellowstone National Park

A recommended GEO ExPro article on the many wonders of Yellowstone National Park by our Contributing Editor for The Americas, Thomas Smith.

The Wonders of Yellowstone
Thomas Smith
The world’s first national park established a new concept in preservation and protection of special areas for future generations. Now, 140 years later, millions have benefited from the founder’s foresight and can enjoy seeing half of the earth’s geothermal features, jaw dropping scenery, and abundant wildlife in Yellowstone’s nearly intact ecosystem.
This article appeared in Vol. 8, No. 6 - 2012

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Dr. Munim M. Al-Rawi, a highly-respected and pioneering Iraqi-Irish geologist, and popular contributor to GEO ExPro Magazine, died suddenly but peacefully on 1 November 2018 at his home in Ireland.
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