Abstract

Following the 2002 M 7.9 Denali fault earthquake, clear changes in geyser activity and a series of local earthquake swarms were observed in the Yellowstone National Park area, despite the large distance of 3100 km from the epicenter. Several geysers altered their eruption frequency within hours after the arrival of large-amplitude surface waves from the Denali fault earthquake. In addition, earthquake swarms occurred close to major geyser basins. These swarms were unusual compared to past seismicity in that they occurred simultaneously at different geyser basins. We interpret these observations as being induced by dynamic stresses associated with the arrival of large-amplitude surface waves. We suggest that in a hydrothermal system dynamic stresses can locally alter permeability by unclogging existing fractures, thereby changing geyser activity. Furthermore, we suggest that earthquakes were triggered by the redistribution of hydrothermal fluids and locally increased pore pressures. Although changes in geyser activity and earthquake triggering have been documented elsewhere, here we present evidence for changes in a hydrothermal system induced by a large-magnitude event at a great distance, and evidence for the important role hydrothermal systems play in remotely triggering seismicity.

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