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Yellowstone National Park: Regional Groundwater Dynamics in High-Temperature Geothermal Areas

K.U. Weyer and James C. Ellis
Proceedings, IAH/CGS International Symposium on Regional Groundwater Flow: Theory, Applications and Future Development
Xi'an, China, June 22-23, 2013

© 2013, WDA Consultants Inc.


The volcanic caldera at Yellowstone National Park (YNP, Figure 1) has been selected for documenting the physical processes which concentrate the flow of geothermal water to discharge areas of gravitationally-driven regional groundwater flow systems. At Yellowstone, the location of the hotspot has been static with reference to the earth mantle but has, over the last 12.5 million years, migrated about 400 km along the Snake River Plain due to the westward movement of the North American plate. The depth of the rhyolite magma chamber is thought to be about 5 km within the crust while in the deeper part of the crust a basaltic magma chamber resides at about 25 km depth (Figure 2).

Birdís-eye view of Yellowstone DEM
Figure 1: Birdís-eye view of Yellowstone DEM showing location of geysers (red triangles). Geyser locations extracted from http://www.geyserstudy.org and YNP Thermal Features database: http://www.rcn.montana.edu/resources/features/features.aspx. (Thick black line shows outline of Yellowstone Park; solid red line shows outline of caldera; dashed red lines show resurgent domes.)

Geologic cross-section at YNP.
Figure 2: Geologic cross-section at YNP. From Hendrix (2011, p146), used with permission.

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