Yellowstone National Park is the site of one of the world's largest calderas. The abundance of geothermal and tectonic activity in and around the caldera, including historic uplift and subsidence, makes it necessary to understand active geologic processes and their associated hazards. To that end, we here use an extensive grid of high-resolution seismic reflection profiles (???450 km) to document hydrothermal and tectonic features and deposits in northern Yellowstone Lake. Sublacustrine geothermal features in northern Yellowstone Lake include two of the largest known hydrothermal explosion craters, Mary Bay and Elliott's. Mary Bay explosion breccia is distributed uniformly around the crater, whereas Elliott's crater breccia has an asymmetric distribution and forms a distinctive, ???2-km-long, hummocky lobe on the lake floor. Hydrothermal vents and low-relief domes are abundant on the lake floor; their greatest abundance is in and near explosion craters and along linear fissures. Domed areas on the lake floor that are relatively unbreached (by vents) are considered the most likely sites of future large hydrothermal explosions. Four submerged shoreline terraces along the margins of northern Yellowstone Lake add to the Holocene record or postglacial lake-level fluctuations attributed to "heavy breathing" of the Yellowstone magma reservoir and associated geothermal system. The Lake Hotel fault cuts through northwestern Yellowstone Lake and represents part of a 25-km-long distributed extensional deformation zone. Three postglacial ruptures indicate a slip rate of ???0.27 to 0.34 mm/yr. The largest (3.0 m slip) and most recent event occurred in the past ???2100 yr. Although high heat flow in the crust limits the rupture area of this fault zone, future earthquakes of magnitude ???5.3 to 6.5 are possible. Earthquakes and hydrothermal explosions have probably triggered landslides, common features around the lake margins. Few high-resolution seismic reflection surveys have been conducted in lakes in active volcanic areas. Our data reveal active geothermal features with unprecedented resolution and provide important analogues for recognition of comparable features and potential hazards in other subaqueous geothermal environments.
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Hydrothermal and tectonic activity in northern Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming