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U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1351

Prepared jointly by the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Utah, and Yellowstone National Park

Cooperating Organizations: Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Wyoming State Geological Survey, Idaho Geological Survey, and UNAVCO, Inc.

Protocols for Geologic Hazards Response by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

By the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

Executive Summary

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (4 MB)

The Yellowstone Plateau hosts an active volcanic system, with subterranean magma (molten rock), boiling, pressurized waters, and a variety of active faults with significant earthquake hazard. Within the next few decades, large and moderate earthquakes and hydrothermal explosions are certain to occur. Volcanic eruptions are less likely, but are ultimately inevitable in this active volcanic region. This document summarizes protocols and tools to be used by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) during earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hydrothermal explosions or any similar geological activity that could lead to a volcanic eruption.

As needed, YVO will be an advisor within the National Incident Management System (NIMS). The YVO Branch within the Operations Section of the Incident Command will consist of three prescribed groups (Monitoring, Information, and Support). The three groups and their subsidiary teams form a scalable system to respond to a variety of scenarios of geological and volcanic unrest. The YVO response will be organized through an event coordination committee, led by the YVO Branch Chief (also known as the Scientist-in-Charge) and consisting of the group supervisors and the existing YVO coordinating scientists. An independent advisory board will work in conjunction with YVO to suggest further avenues for monitoring and research during quiescent periods and will provide scientific oversight to crisis response during unrest.

Formal alerts and information statements will be issued by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in conjunction with YVO partners and through standard telephone and Internet “calldown” lists. External communications will be coordinated by the public information team leader, in association with any Joint Information Center set up through the Incident Command. Internal communications will be handled through a computerized log system that can be used as an archive for public and non-public documents and to provide a forum for discussion by observatory personnel and collaborators.

Within 2 months of publication of this document, provisional group supervisors and team leaders will be assigned. The response plan will be updated every three years by the YVO coordinating scientists and will be available through the YVO and USGS public websites. The calldown list will be updated at least once per year and placed on the internal log system.

  • This report is available only on the Web at the moment. It is scheduled to be released in paper form in September 2010.

For additional information:
Contact YVO
Volcano Science Center, Yellowstone Volcano Observatory
U.S. Geological Survey
345 Middlefield Road, MS 910
Menlo Park, CA 94025

This report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, 2010, Protocols for geologic hazards response by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1351, 18 p.


Executive Summary

1. Introduction and Scope

2. Geological Unrest, Alert Levels, and Information Products

3. YVO and the National Incident Management System

4. The Event Response

5. Alert Notification Scheme and Decision Criteria

6. Scientific Oversight and Information Sharing

7. Scenarios of Unrest and Initiation of Event Response

8. Summary and Protocols for Updating this Plan

Glossary of Terminology and Acronyms

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

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