Here’s Why Yellowstone National Park Roads Are Reportedly ‘Melting’

by Emily Morgan

Yellowstone could arguably be the country’s most well-known national park. From its iconic natural geysers to its stunning wildlife, it’s hard to beat. However, now it’s gaining notoriety for another odd phenomenon: melting roads.

According to reports, the same geothermal conditions that make eruptions at Old Faithful are now causing reports that roads in and around Yellowstone are “melting.”

With over two million acres in its boundaries, Yellowstone is a massive piece of land that many visitors choose to see by driving through its many miles of roadways. However, in recent years, reports of “melting roads” in Yellowstone have started to make the rounds online. As a result, some believe that the increasing ground temperature signifies an inevitable volcanic eruption.

Yet, according to officials, the geothermal activity is now contributing to this sci-fi-like phenomenon.

According to a post from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, the ground gets hot in some regions of the park. With this, it can become a “recipe for trouble” when the asphalt is laid down on it—especially during the summer when it’s also heated by the sun.

“The result of this heating is that the asphalt softens and can flow, like silly putty,” they add. “This can create ‘ripples’ in the road surface, and potholes are more likely to form. When vehicles drive over the warmed asphalt, the road can suffer significant damage.”

According to USGS, problems with melting roads in Yellowstone from high ground temperatures have been an ongoing issue for decades. In 2014, a series of these incidents went viral, causing speculation that an apocalyptic-style volcanic eruption was on the horizon.

Yellowstone officials set the record straight on ‘melting’ roads

According to the USGS, after a 4.8-magnitude earthquake hit the park, a video of bison running in Yellowstone began to spread online. As a result, some theorized that the animals’ behavior meant they were “running for their lives because of impending volcanic activity.”

Then, when roads began closing due to melting asphalt, people began to throw around doomsday theories. Thankfully, experts stepped in to set the story straight.

“The spate of misrepresented information even prompted the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory to put out a news statement discussing the recent observations, how they were being misinterpreted, what was being flat-out made up, and that there was no sign of any imminent volcanic activity,” the USGS writes. “And as usual, volcanologists were right and misinformation sources were wrong—that’s why it’s called misinformation!”

Officials add that even though the misshapen asphalt isn’t a sign of impending doom, the park must still cope with the environmental issue and make changes. But they clarify that there’s no reason to panic besides the mundane driving inconvenience.

“Do roads sometimes ‘melt’ in Yellowstone National Park? The phrasing is a bit melodramatic, but indeed, roads can be impacted by the thermal ground they traverse,” USGS writes. “This is nothing new, nor a sign of imminent volcanic activity.”

“Still pretty amazing. Just not worrisome from a volcanic point of view,” the agency concludes.