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Caldera chronicles: New interactive map highlights Yellowstone’s geology
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CALDERA CHRONICLES

Caldera chronicles: New interactive map highlights Yellowstone’s geology

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New map

The Geology of Yellowstone Map is shown zoomed into the Lower Geyser Basin. This view shows a park-wide geologic map overlaid on a shaded relief layer from a digital elevation model. Red diamonds and black circles show geysers and gas sample locations, respectively.

Yellowstone Caldera Chronicles is a weekly column written by scientists and collaborators of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. This week's contribution is from James Mauch, geologist with the Wyoming State Geological Survey.

If you’re as into Yellowstone geology as we are, then you probably enjoy staring at maps of the park’s geology, earthquake activity and other details. For the most part, though, this information has been hosted on different websites by different institutions. Not anymore. The Wyoming State Geological Survey — one of the YVO member institutions — has created an online interactive map all about Yellowstone. The Geology of Yellowstone Map displays a wealth of geospatial data and provides scientists, managers, and the general public with a one-stop-shop to digitally explore Yellowstone’s unique geologic landscape.

To develop the map, the WSGS compiled publicly available geospatial data from YVO partners and other external sources. Traditionally, anyone wishing to access geology-related geospatial data for Yellowstone has had to search online, download, and view these datasets individually. This can be time consuming when dealing with multiple datasets from different sources, and downright impossible for those who do not have access to a geographic information system. This new map allows users to easily view data and link back to the original data sources — an Internet connection is all that’s required.

The Geology of Yellowstone Map contains nearly 100 distinct layers that users can toggle on and off to show and hide. Many of the map layers, including several bedrock and surficial geologic maps that cover the entire park, were published by the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service. Users will also find layers depicting Yellowstone’s thermal features, water resources, topography, geologic hazards, and basic orientation information.

Shaded relief

A Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) shaded relief image overlaid on an aerial imagery basemap is one of the layers of the new mapping system. The Sulphur Hills, part of the Sour Creek Resurgent Dome, are visible in the upper half of the image, while the floodplain and meanders of Pelican Creek are visible at the bottom. Black lines show faults, blue lines symbolize watercourses, and shaded polygons show waterbodies.

So where do I find this map, and how do I use it? Access the map through the direct link or via the interactive maps panel on the WSGS homepage. An initial welcome screen will walk you through some of the map functions, and after that you’re free to explore.

Users can interactively pan and zoom to areas of interest on the map, search for specific locations in the search bar, and open attribute tables to view the data in tabular form. Clicking on a feature leads to a pop-up window with more information. Menus on the map provide an explanation of each layer and a web link to the original data source. This is helpful for users who want more information or would like to download the data for themselves.

The abundance of geologic data contained in the Geology of Yellowstone Map pairs well with the real-time monitoring data displayed in YVO’s Monitoring Map. These two maps can be used together to paint a comprehensive picture of Yellowstone’s geologic history and present activity.

The WSGS plans to make ongoing updates and additions to the map as new studies are published and more data are released. The agency welcomes suggestions on how to improve the Geology of Yellowstone Map going forward and encourages inquiries from researchers interested in displaying their data on the map. Get in touch at wsgs-info@wyo.gov.

Whether as a tool for geologic research and data access, or as a portal for armchair exploration and dreaming about your next trip, the Geology of Yellowstone Map provides a treasure trove of geospatial information at your fingertips. So take a look, and happy mapping.

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