Earth and Planetary Sciences ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 8-1-2023


Twelve years of concurrent hydrologic and continuous seismic data along with temporary seismic data demonstrate that the Upper and Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River comprise a highly localized source of 0.5-5 Hz seismic energy that overwhelms anthropogenic contributions. In aggregate, seismic amplitude from 2008-2019 is linearly related to discharge with a correlation coefficient of 0.96. Repeated deviations from this linear relationship persist for 1-2 weeks prior to the date that Yellowstone Lake becomes clear of winter ice coverage. Seismic efficiency increases by ~50-250% during this period of ice-breakup, during which lake ice flows into the Yellowstone River. The increased seismic efficiency suggests more effective mechanical coupling due to impacts of ice and sediment mobilized during ice breakup. Models of waterfall development should account for the ice breakup period given that this period may be especially important to waterfall erosion.

Degree Name

Earth and Planetary Sciences

Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Brandon Schmandt, PhD

Second Committee Member

Lindsey Worthington, PhD

Third Committee Member

Eric Lindsay, PhD




fluvial, seismology, ice breakup, Yellowstone, waterfalls

Document Type