If the earth shakes in the forest and there’s no one there, is it really an earthquake?

The United States Geological Survey says yes, even though the series of quakes that hit Yellowstone National Park early Sunday was witnessed, apparently, by nothing on two legs.

The quakes all hit about 4 miles northeast of Norris Geyser Basin, and were known only through the efficiency of automatic monitoring devices. The biggest, a 4.8 shake, was pronounced the strongest temblor in the park since Feb. 22, 1980.

But that quake, though notable, went unnoticed where it actually happened.

“I talked to someone at Mammoth and they didn’t feel the largest quake,” said Yellowstone park spokesman Al Nash. As for the actual quake location, “we just don’t have anybody there right now.

“There are people working to clear roads, but we don’t have anyone staffing or living at the Norris this time of year,” he said.

The 4.8 hit at 6:34 a.m., according to University of Utah seismograph stations in the area. More than 25 smaller shakes were recorded starting on Thursday, including two of 2.8 and 3.0 soon after midnight Sunday and another four in the hours after the 4.8. The second largest was a 3.3 monitored at 9:12 a.m.

The depth of Sunday’s quakes ranged from 1 to 4.8 miles.

A University of Utah release said that the quake area had experienced a “ground uplift” since August and that “seismicity in the general region of the uplift has been elevated for several months.”

The USGS planned to send a team to the area Sunday to look for any sign of the earthquakes, including any effects to the geysers and hot pools at Norris.

Mark Huffman edits copy and occasionally writes some, too. He's been a journalist since newspapers had typewriters and darkrooms.

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