Michael Poland

Michael Poland

Mike Poland is a research geophysicist with the Cascades Volcano Observatory and the Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Mike's area of specialization is volcano geodesy, which emphasizes the surface deformation and gravity fields associated with volcanic activity. This work involves the use of space-based technologies, like Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar, as well as ground-based techniques, like microgravity surveys.

Sunrise at Yellowstone Lake

First geological map of Yellowstone National Park stands test of time

By: - February 22, 2023

The volcanic character of Yellowstone has long been known. An indigenous map drawn on a bison pelt indicating a volcano on the Yellowstone River was described by the governor of Louisiana Territory in an 1805 letter to Thomas Jefferson. The first formal geological studies of the region, however, were not undertaken until the 1870s. In 1871, […]

view of Yellowstone Caldera from the Washburn Range

A Christmas (misinformation) story: Yellowstone National Park edition

By: - January 13, 2023

On Oct. 30, 1938, Orson Welles directed and narrated a live radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel “The War of the Worlds.” The incident is famous for supposedly having incited a panic that the events being described were really happening. Some people apparently thought that Martians were invading Earth! Fast forward over 80 years […]

Yellowstone National Park's Steamboat Geyser

2,500 earthquakes, 26 swarms. 11 Steamboat Geyser eruptions. Here’s Yellowstone’s year in a glance.

By: - January 9, 2023

Any annual review of Yellowstone’s activity has to start with seismicity. Yellowstone is an active place in terms of earthquakes. Typically the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, which is responsible for the operation of the Yellowstone Seismic Network, locates 1,500–2,500 earthquakes every year in the region. Over the last several years, annual seismicity in and around Yellowstone National […]


Active, dormant, extinct: Clarifying confusing volcano classifications at Yellowstone and beyond

By: - October 14, 2022

When the subject of volcanoes comes up, you’ll often hear the words “active,” “dormant,” and “extinct.” But what precisely do they mean? Admittedly, use of these terms by volcanologists has been somewhat inconsistent and evolved with time, which has resulted in understandable confusion among non-volcanologists. A simple search for the terms online produces a number […]

Yellowstone National Park f

How might floods in Yellowstone National Park influence seismic and hydrothermal activity?

By: - June 21, 2022

Last week, flooding at Yellowstone caused catastrophic damage in the region, destroying homes, roads, and bridges, and isolating entire communities. Despite the size of this event, the impacts on seismic and hydrothermal activity are likely to be minor. From June 10-13, 2022, an “atmospheric river” event — a system of warm and extremely wet air […]

Scientists in Yellowstone National Park

May ushers in new season of geoscience field work in Yellowstone National Park

By: - May 19, 2022

May is an exciting time for geologists when it comes to Yellowstone — by that month, enough snow has usually melted to allow for the start of field work. And the field season typically lasts until October or November. Last week, Yellowstone Volcano Observatory scientists kicked off the field season with several projects. Geophysicists installed […]

Yellowstone National Park lava flows

Short drive between Yellowstone’s Tower, Canyon junctions showcases millions of years of history

By: - May 10, 2022

The road over Dunraven Pass between Tower and Canyon junctions in the northeast part of Yellowstone National Park exposes an outstanding sequence of geological history, much of which significantly predates recent Yellowstone volcanism. Construction work closed the road during the summers of 2020 and 2021, but the route is scheduled to open to park visitors […]

birds gather on Yellowstone Lake

2,773 earthquakes were recorded in the Yellowstone National Park area in 2021, annual report says

By: - May 3, 2022

How many earthquakes occurred in the Yellowstone region in 2021? How many times did Steamboat Geyser erupt? What geological mapping was completed during the year? Good questions. And now, the answers to these questions, and more, are all compiled in one easy-to-navigate source — the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory 2021 Annual Report, which can be accessed […]

Buffalo Soldiers in Yellowstone

‘No better troops.’ The 1896 ride of the Buffalo Soldiers through Yellowstone National Park

By: - February 7, 2022

Many would enjoy the adventure of a bicycle expedition to Yellowstone National Park. But imagine doing it in 1896, before pavement, lightweight cycles and modern camping equipment. The Buffalo Soldiers who made up the volunteer Bicycle Corps of the 25th Infantry Regiment were up to the challenge. An iconic photo from Yellowstone’s early history depicts […]

Yellowstone National Park

Why can’t we drill in Yellowstone to stop eruptions, make power?

By: - December 30, 2021

Drilling is often suggested as a means of preventing Yellowstone from erupting. It seems like a reasonable idea, but the volcano doesn’t work that way. And while it might be possible to generate power by geothermal drilling, that would risk disturbing the thermal features of Yellowstone — one-of-a-kind geologic and cultural treasures, with no way […]