The sensors detect seismic ground motion and are sensitive to fluid and empty spaces in soil and rocks, and temperature. The seismic data collected will be used to create 3-D images of the plumbing system of Old Faithful geyser itself, Geyser Hill, and the surrounding parking lots and developed areas. The images (3-D seismic shear wave velocity maps) can be interpreted to determine structure, soil-rock composition, soil and rock strength, and temperature of the shallow geologic structure of the Old Faithful hydrothermal system (from about 10 to 300 meters below the surface).
The study will provide better information about the thermal processes of the Upper Geyser Basin, their influence on soil, and interactions between the Old Faithful hydrothermal system, park structures, and other geothermal features. The knowledge of the area below the surface gathered from this project will help park maintenance staff make decisions about facility planning for the area.
The data will supplement the Yellowstone Seismic Network, operated by the University of Utah, that continuously records earthquake data for Yellowstone.
Faculty and students will work in teams of three to set and retrieve 150 to 170 sensors over one or two days. The sensors will be in place for seven days, with occasional checks by the teams, and then retrieved. Most of the sensors will be set along trails and boardwalks. A few of the locations are off-trail, but not in active hydrothermal locations.
The sensors, nodal seismographs, are about the size of a quart jar. Each sensor is attached to the ground by a short spike.
The project is led by Robert Smith, Jamie Farrell, Fan-Chi Lin, and Keith Koper at the University of Utah in conjunction with Yellowstone National Park.