Special Issues: Yellowstone–Snake River Plain and Mount Hood
The 1978 Yellowstone-Eastern Snake River Plain Seismic Profiling Experiment: Crustal structure of the Yellowstone Region and experiment design
Article first published online: 20 SEP 2012
Copyright 1982 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth (1978–2012)
Volume 87, Issue B4, pages 2583–2596, 10 April 1982
How to Cite
1982), The 1978 Yellowstone-Eastern Snake River Plain Seismic Profiling Experiment: Crustal structure of the Yellowstone Region and experiment design, J. Geophys. Res., 87(B4), 2583–2596, doi:10.1029/JB087iB04p02583., , , , , , , , , and (
- Issue published online: 20 SEP 2012
- Article first published online: 20 SEP 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 2 OCT 1981
- Manuscript Received: 6 APR 1981
In 1978 a major seismic profiling experiment was conducted in the Yellowstone-eastern Snake River Plain region of Idaho and Wyoming. Fifteen shots were recorded that provided coverage to distances of 300 km. In this paper, travel time and synthetic seismogram modeling was used to evaluate an average P wave velocity and apparent Q structure of the crust from two seismic profiles (reversed) across the Yellowstone National Park region. This area includes the well-known hydrothermal features of Yellowstone National Park (geysers, fumeroles, etc.), a large collapse caldera, and extensive silicic volcanism of Quaternary age—features attributed to shallow crustal sources of magma. The averaged crustal structure for this region as interpreted from the seismic data consists of (1) a highly variable, near-surface layer approximately 2 km thick with variable velocities of 3.0 to 4.8 km/s and a low apparent Q of 30 that is interpreted to be composed of weathered rhyolites and sedimentary infill, (2) an upper crustal layer 3 to 4 km thick with variable velocities of 4.9 to 5.5 km/s and apparent Q of 50 to 200 that is thought to represent the accumulation of the Pleistocene-Quaternary rhyolite flows, ash flow tuffs, and possible Paleozoic and Precambrian metamorphic equivalents, (3) the crystalline, upper crust that is characterized by a laterally inhomogeneous layer that varies in velocity from 4.0 to 6.1 km/s, averaging 5 km thick with a Q of 300. This layer appears to be a cooling but still hot body of granitic composition beneath the Yellowstone caldera. It is thought to be a remnant of the magma chambers that produced the Quaternary silicic volcanic rocks of the Yellowstone Plateau and may still be a major contributor to the high heat flow, (4) a laterally homogeneous intermediate crustal layer 8 to 10 km thick with a velocity of 6.5 km/s and apparent Q of 100 to 300, (5) a homogeneous 25-km-thick lower crust with a velocity of 6.7 to 6.8 km/s and an apparent Q of 300, and (6) a total crustal thickness of ∼43 km. The upper crustal layer, 5.5 to 6.0 km/s, is thought to be the thermally altered equivalent of the continental crystalline basement that is normally 15 to 20 km thick in the surrounding thermally undisturbed Archean crust. An interpretation from these results suggests that mafic melts from the mantle have penetrated the lower crust without significant variations in the velocity structure but produce the main source of heat that drives the volcanic and hydrothermal systems of Yellowstone. The high apparent attenuation and large lateral velocity variations in the upper crust are consistent with a model in which partial fractionation, partial melting, and metamorphism differentiate the original upper crust to produce silicic melts that were extruded as rhyolites and ash flow tuffs across the Yellowstone Plateau. This seismic model is consistent with the evidence for a systematic northeastward propogation of silicic volcanic centers along the eastern Snake River Plain to their present location beneath the Yellowstone hydrothermal system. While these findings do not bear directly on the origin and source of the heat, i.e., mantle lumes, lithospheric fractures, mantle radiogenetic heat, basal lithospheric shearing, etc., they provide a constraint on the configuration and lateral extent of crustal layers that reflect thermal and compositional boundaries.