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4.8 quake at Yellowstone: What do the bison know that we don't know?

A 4.8 magnitude earthquake rattled Yellowstone National Park this morning at 6:34 a.m. (1234 GMT), near the border with Wyoming. The epicenter of the quake was 4 miles north-northeast of Norris Geyser Basin, and so far, there have been four aftershocks recorded with a magnitude of 3.1 to 3.3. According to the USGS, more aftershocks are to be expected.

4.8 quake in Yellowstone: What do these bison know that we don't?

Yellowstone National Park, North America's largest volcanic field, is the home to a caldera sometimes referred to as “Yellowstone Supervolcano.”

Is something heating up in the area of the supervolvano? Do the Yellowstone bison know something that we don’t know? On Friday, March 28, bison were spotted running down from the hills in droves. Could they be perhaps providing an early warning about Yellowstone for the rest of us?

Sunday's 4.8 earthquake is only part of a quake swarm that began in this area on Thursday, March 27. As of today, in addition to the 4.8, this swarm includes at least 25 earthquakes. Today's quake was near the center of a region of recent ground uplift, which the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory has been tracking for about 7 months. Seismicity in the general region of the uplift has been elevated for several months.

The Park normally averages about “1,600 earthquakes a year.” However, from Jan 17 to Feb 8 of this year alone that number rose to almost "1,800 earthquakes in just a little over three weeks," with a maximum magnitude of about 3.8 on Jan 20.

University of Utah scientists recorded 1,799 earthquakes through Feb 8:

  • 14 events with a magnitude of more than 3
  • 136 events of magnitude 2.0 to 2.9
  • 1,113 events of magnitude 1.0 to 1.9
  • 536 events of magnitude 0.0 to 0.9.

But wait, there’s more earthquake activity in Feb and March . . .

On Feb 1-2, a seismometer inside Borehole B944 at Yellowstone reported some astonishing underground activity near the SW corner of Yellowstone Lake. According to Turner Radio Network, the activity detected by a seismometer in the borehole began around 12:00 noon, MST on Feb 1, and continued nonstop, getting stronger with time all day Feb 2.

Then, on Tuesday, Feb 25, a 3.8 earthquake about 3.1 miles deep rattled parts of northeastern Montana. What is unusual about this shaker is the majority of Montana earthquakes happen in the western one-third of the state. And on March 16, Philipsburg residents received a dinner time jolt when an earthquake hit western Montana at 6:49 p.m.

Even though it is not unusual for Yellowstone to experience one or more earthquakes on a daily basis, swarms of more than 100 small earthquakes a day are unusual, and 1,799 quakes in just a three week period is "highly unusual."

Do the bison at Yellowstone know something we don't know? You be the judge of that!

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