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U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 632

In cooperation with the National Park Service

Water Chemistry and Electrical Conductivity Database for Rivers in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

By Laura E. Clor, R. Blaine McCleskey, Mark A. Huebner, Jacob B. Lowenstern, Henry P. Heasler, Dan L. Mahony, Tim Moloney, and William C. Evans

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.7 MB)Introduction

Chloride flux has been used to estimate heat flow in volcanic environments since the method was developed in New Zealand by Ellis and Wilson (1955). The method can be applied effectively at Yellowstone, because nearly all of the water discharged from its thermal features enters one of four major rivers (the Madison, Yellowstone, Snake, and Falls Rivers) that drain the park, and thus integration of chloride fluxes from all these rivers provides a means to monitor the total heat flow from the entire Yellowstone volcanic system (Fournier and others, 1976; Fournier, 1979). Fournier (1989) summarized the results and longterm heat-flow trends from Yellowstone, and later efforts that applied the chloride inventory method to estimate heat flow were described by Ingebritsen and others (2001) and Friedman and Norton (2007). Most recently, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in conjunction with the National Park Service, has provided publicly accessible reports on solute flux, based on periodic sampling at selected locations (Hurwitz and others, 2007a,b). While these studies have provided a wealth of valuable data, winter travel restrictions and the great distances between sites present significant logistical challenges and have limited collection to a maximum of 28 samples per site annually.

This study aims to quantify relations between solute concentrations (especially chloride) and electrical conductivity for several rivers in Yellowstone National Park (YNP), by using automated samplers and conductivity meters. Norton and Friedman (1985) found that chloride concentrations and electrical conductivity have a good correlation in the Falls, Snake, Madison, and Yellowstone Rivers. However, their results are based on limited sampling and hydrologic conditions and their relation with other solutes was not determined. Once the correlations are established, conductivity measurements can then be used as a proxy for chloride concentrations, thereby enabling continuous heat-flow estimation on a much finer timescale and at lower cost than is currently possible with direct sampling. This publication serves as a repository for all data collected during the course of the study from May 2010 through July 2011, but it does not include correlations between solutes and conductivity or recommendations for quantification of chloride through continuous electrical conductivity measurements. This will be the object of a future document.

  • Report PDF (1.7 MB).
  • Data folder. This folder contains the workbook file in several formats (43 MB total).
  • This report is available only on the Web.

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

Part of 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:

Clor, L.E., McCleskey, R.B., Huebner, M.A., Lowenstern, J.B., Heasler, H.P., Mahony, D.L., Moloney, Tim, and Evans, W.C., 2012, Water chemistry and electrical conductivity database for rivers in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 632, 18 p. and data tables, available at




Database Contents

References Cited


Appendix: Photo documentation of Instruments and Field Sites

one appendix

data workbook

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