Leveling surveys in 1923, 1976, and each year from 1983 to 1993 have shown that the east-central part of the Yellowstone caldera, near the base of the Sour Creek resurgent dome, rose at an average rate of 14??1 mm/year from 1923 to 1976 and 22??1 mm/year from 1976 to 1984. In contrast, no detectable movement occurred in the same area from 1984 to 1985 (-2??5 mm/year), and from 1985 to 1993 the area subsided at an average rate of 19??1 mm/year. We conclude that uplift from 1923 to 1984 was caused by: (1) pressurization of the deep hydrothermal system by fluids released from a crystallizing body of rhyolite magma beneath the caldera, then trapped beneath a self-sealed zone near the base of the hydrothermal system; and (2) aseismic intrusions of magma into the lower part of the sub-caldera magma body. Subsidence since 1985 is attributed to: (1) depressurization and fluid loss from the deep hydrothermal system, and (2) sagging of the caldera floor in response to regional crustal extension. Future intrusions might trigger renewed eruptive activity at Yellowstone, but most intrusions at large silicic calderas seem to be accommodated without eruptions. Overpressurization of the deep hydrothermal system could conceivably result in a phreatic or phreatomagmatic eruption, but this hazard is mitigated by episodic rupturing of the self-sealed zone during shallow earthquake swarms. Historical ground movements, although rapid by most geologic standards, seem to be typical of inter-eruption periods at large, mature, silicic magma systems like Yellowstone. The greatest short-term hazards posed by continuing unrest in the Yellowstone region are: (1) moderate to large earthquakes (magnitude 5.5-7.5), with a recurrence interval of a few decdes; and (2) small hydrothermal explosions, most of which affect only a small area (<0.01 km2), with a recurrence interval of a few years. ?? 1994 Springer-Verlag.
Additional publication details
Mechanisms of crustal uplift and subsidence at the Yellowstone caldera, Wyoming