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.
First geological map of Yellowstone National Park stands test of time
By: Michael Poland - 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, […]
A Christmas (misinformation) story: Yellowstone National Park edition
By: Michael Poland - 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 […]
2,500 earthquakes, 26 swarms. 11 Steamboat Geyser eruptions. Here’s Yellowstone’s year in a glance.
By: Michael Poland - 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: Michael Poland - 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 […]
How might floods in Yellowstone National Park influence seismic and hydrothermal activity?
By: Michael Poland - 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 […]
May ushers in new season of geoscience field work in Yellowstone National Park
By: Michael Poland - 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 […]
Short drive between Yellowstone’s Tower, Canyon junctions showcases millions of years of history
By: Michael Poland - 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 […]
2,773 earthquakes were recorded in the Yellowstone National Park area in 2021, annual report says
By: Michael Poland - 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 […]
‘No better troops.’ The 1896 ride of the Buffalo Soldiers through Yellowstone National Park
By: Michael Poland - 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 […]
Why can’t we drill in Yellowstone to stop eruptions, make power?
By: Michael Poland - 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 […]