Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Gregory P. Waite


Alessandro Tibaldi


Within the Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, the silicic Yellowstone volcanic field is one of the most active volcanic systems all over the world. Although the last rhyolite eruption occurred around 70,000 years ago, Yellowstone is still believed to be volcanically active, due to high hydrothermal and seismic activity. The earthquake data used in this study cover the period of time between 1988 and 2010. Earthquake relocations and a set of 369 well-constrained, double-couple, focal mechanism solutions were computed. Events were grouped according to location and time to investigate trends in faulting. The majority of the events has oblique, normal-faulting solutions.

The overall direction of extension throughout the 0.64 Ma Yellowstone caldera looks nearly ENE, consistently with the direction of alignments of volcanic vents within the caldera, but detailed study revealed spatial and temporal variations. Stress-field solutions for different areas and time periods were calculated from earthquake focal mechanism inversion. A well-resolved rotation of σ3 was found, from NNE-SSW near the Hebgen Lake fault zone, to ENE-WSW near Norris Junction. In particular, the σ3 direction changed throughout the years in the Norris Junction area, from being ENE-WSW, as calculated in the study by Waite and Smith (2004), to NNE-SSW, while the other σ3 directions are mostly unchanged over time.

The Yellowstone caldera was subject to periods of net uplift and subsidence over the past century, explained in previous studies as caused by expanding or contracting sills, at different depths. Based on the models used to explain these deformation periods, we investigated the relationship between variability in aseismic deformation and seismic activity and faulting styles. Focal mechanisms and P and T axes were divided into temporal and depth intervals, in order to identify spatial or temporal trends in deformation.

The presence of “chocolate tablet” structures, with composite dilational faults, was identified in many stages of the deformation history both in the Norris Geyser Basin area and inside the caldera. Strike-slip component movement was found in a depth interval below a contracting sill, indicating the movement of magma towards the caldera.

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