Earthquakes and the Yellowstone Caldera-North America is stretching

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – First an earthquake in Salt Lake, then one near Reno, then near Boise, Idaho and a small shock felt through Yellowstone. The scary thoughts swarm our minds, “are we at the end?” “Will the Yellowstone volcano erupt?” “Why do we have a virus and earthquakes?”

Well as hard as it sounds it’s just a normal part of living on our planet.

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We have faced deadly infections and earthquakes before. In 1918 people were asked to distance themselves too. The Spanish Flu spread around the world. Deadly earthquakes hit in China the United States, the Philippines, and Russia. On top of all of this, we were fighting World War I.

According to an article posted by Discover magazine, what is happening now in the western United States is a constant process called continent stretching. The west stretches about a quarter inch a year, then after so long the normal fault zones slip. When they do, we feel it as an earthquake.

A few years ago, everyone was worried about the Yellowstone Caldera, or what was called on television, the Yellowstone Super Volcano. Will it erupt now? Can earthquakes cause it to erupt?

ABC4 News spoke with Doctor Keith D. Koper, Professor of Geology and Geophysics, and Director of the University of Utah’s Seismographs Stations. He explained they monitor Utah and Yellowstone. He told us there is no obvious relationship with the earthquakes that hit Magna, Reno, and North of Boise. He said it is possible for a big earthquake to trigger smaller earthquakes.

Professor Koper explained the Boise earthquake could have caused a wave that triggered smaller earthquakes in Yellowstone but at this time there is no evidence that happened.

According to a report two weeks ago by National Geographic, the caldera has been experiencing a type of pulsing, but new research does not indicate that the supervolcano that created the Yellowstone caldera is more likely to erupt now. The last time it happened was 640,000 years ago.

Yellowstone is a complicated area, besides being volcanically active…with magma thought to be only a mile below ground at certain times. Yellowstone is also seismically active with 700 to 3000 quakes a year. Most are not felt. Three years ago we reported Yellowstone had 900 earthquakes in two weeks.

Earthquakes as far away as the Boise one will not cause the magma in Yellowstone to explode.

The article at Discover magazine talks about how our unique terrain in the Rocky Mountain area, our mountains and valleys are all part of a seismic system. The entire region known as the Basin and Range. We are learning more all the time about the process of how the mountains grow and the valley’s fall and expand.

So don’t worry, stay at home to fight the virus, and even though it’s been shaky with the quakes remember it all just the normal way our planet changes and here in the west, we get to see something unique. The process that makes our beautiful mountains and valleys.

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