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The minor earthquake struck near the town of West Yellowstone, Montana, near the border of Wyoming. Preliminary scans reveal the earthquake peaked at magnitude 3.1 at 5.58am local time, November 25. Earthquake trackers at Volcano Discovery estimate the tremor would have been felt by hundreds of people in the Yellowstone area.
Volcano Discovery said: “According to preliminary data, the quake was located at a very shallow depth of 5.2 miles.
“Shallow earthquakes are felt more strongly than deeper ones as they are closer to the surface.
“The exact magnitude, epicentre, and depth of the quake might be revisited within the next few hours or minutes as seismologists review data and refine their calculations, or as other agencies issue their report.”
Subsequent analysis by the US Geological Survey (USGS) found the earthquake struck at a depth of about 4.6 miles (7.5km).
The Yellowstone volcano caldera, which mostly sits in the northwest corner of Wyoming, is one of the most seismically active parts of the US.
The seismicity is the product of extensive faults and tectonic features that stretch under Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
Yellowstone’s seismic activity is also associated with volcanic fluids and scorching water moving deep underground.
This is because US national park is home to the Yellowstone hotspot – a volcanic hotspot responsible for three cataclysmic eruptions in the last 2.1 million years.
The hotspot currently resides under the 34 by 45 mile Yellowstone caldera, which formed during a major eruption 640,000 years ago, and was preceded by two more blasts 1.3 million and 2.1 million years ago.
However, compared to Yellowstone’s turbulent past, Wednesday’s earthquake was a minor affair.
Volcano Discovery said: “Based on the preliminary seismic data, the quake should not have caused any significant damage, but was probably felt by many people as light vibration in the area of the epicentre.
“Weak shaking might have been felt in West Yellowstone (population 1,300) located nine miles from the epicentre.
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“Towns or cities near the epicentre where the quake might have been felt as very weak shaking include Mammoth (population 300) located 22 miles from the epicentre, Gardiner (population 900) 25 miles away, Corwin Springs (population 100) 26 miles away, and Island Park (population 300) 29 miles away.”
Every year, as many as 3,000 earthquakes hit the Yellowstone area, although most go unnoticed.
According to the US National Park Service, which oversees Yellowstone National Park, many of these quakes tend to strike in swarms.
One such swarm in 1985 saw 3,000 earthquakes unfold over three months in the park’s northwest side.
However, none of this is an indicator of future volcanic activity at the supervolcano.
Dr Madison L. Myers, a Yellowstone expert at Montana University, said: “In Yellowstone, those thousands of earthquakes, most of them are under a magnitude 3.
“Most of them are associated with fluids moving kind of in that upper crust area.”
She added: “It’s a huge challenge, I think, from a science communication point of view, that everyone thinks Yellowstone’s going to blow, but it’s not.
“Where you have a lot of heat at depth and a lot of water, you’re going to have this geothermal energy.
“That does not mean anything about the volcanic system, except for that it’s still producing heat.”
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