For the more information about the geologic resources of the National Park Service, please visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/.


Geologic Monitoring

Seismic Activity

Figure showing worldwide earthquakes and plate boundaries
Worldwide earthquakes and plate boundaries. (Click photo to enlarge)

What is an earthquake?

Earthquakes are associated with natural, dynamic processes that shape Earth's landscape. The vast majority of earthquakes are caused by sudden slip along faults, resulting in seismic waves that shake the ground, often with sufficient force to damage structures or trigger other events, such as landslides.


Why does the National Park Service monitor seismic activity?

  • Earthquakes can be significant hazards, as evidenced by occasional damaging and deadly events.
  • The National Park Service can respond best to earthquake hazards by understanding the probability and the likely effects of significant events.
  • Monitoring Book
  • Resource Facts
  • Case Study

Geological Monitoring Book

Vital Signs Monitored

  1. Monitoring earthquakes
  2. Earthquake activity
  3. Historical and prehistoric earthquake activity
  4. Earthquake risk estimation
  5. Geodetic monitoring, ground deformation
  6. Geomorphic and geologic indications of active tectonics

Chapter 10
Seismic Monitoring (PDF - 1.62MB)

Although earthquakes happen frequently in many parts of the world, any occurrence of a moderate to large event is sudden and unexpected. Thus, the earthquake process can be interesting and even frightening to people. When significant earthquakes occur emergency response and relief efforts come from around the world, and there is renewed interest in understanding the causes and in mitigating the devastating effects of earthquakes.

Many national parks are located in geologically interesting areas that include earthquakes or previous plate tectonic activity. Visitors to national parks are often interested in how these landscapes and features within the park came to be. Thus, the geologic and seismic attractions of the park present and opportunity for public, involvement, outreach, and education.

Earthquakes and seismic activity

Approximately 95% of all earthquakes occur near tectonic plate boundaries.

There is no consistently reliable method from predicting earthquakes.

It is not unusual for there to be between 1 and 20 earthquakes in Yellowstone National Park everyday.

Monitoring Seismic Acitivity in the National Park Service

Monitoring Earthquakes in Yellowstone National Park

The network covers the seismically and volcanically active Yellowstone National Park and surrounding area. It is designed for the purpose of monitoring volcano and geyser-related earthquake activity and for studying the subsurface processes of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Seismic Network website


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Last Updated: March 06, 2012