Geologists in Yellowstone National Park have now detected more than 500 earthquakes in the past week. The ongoing earthquake swarm is one of the larger ones the park has seen.
Yellowstone typically sees between 1,500 and 2,000 earthquakes a year. About half of those will occur during a swarm, like the one going on now in the northwest corner of the park.
University of Utah seismologist Jamie Farrell says the current swarm, though bigger, more frequent and longer lasting than average, is no cause for alarm.
"Yellowstone is an active volcano, and this is kind of how they act. Doesn't mean we shouldn't be paying attention to it, but it doesn't mean it's the end of the world either. This is the way the earth works," Farrell says.
More than 100 people reported feeling a magnitude 4.4 quake on June 15. That’s the biggest recorded in the current swarm so far.
Yellowstone’s largest swarm happened in 1985, when more than 3,000 earthquakes shook the park for about three months. More recently, a swarm in 2010 saw 2,000 quakes over the course of a few weeks.
Farrell says his team doesn’t think the swarm is associated with any volcanic process. He says there’s no way to know how long the swarm will last, but it shouldn’t scare people off from visiting the park.
"We do get calls and people ask us if they should cancel their plans to go to Yellowstone, and the answer to that is definitely no," Farrell says. "If you go now, maybe you'll actually feel an earthquake or two, which will add to your experience."