Natural geysers are rare on Earth; there are fewer than 1,000 worldwide, and about half of them are in Yellowstone National Park. Geysers, whose eruptions range from small bubbling pools, to roaring jets of water and steam that can reach a few hundred meters high, fascinate all who have the good fortune of witnessing one.
In a newly published paper in the "Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences", U. S. Geological Survey hydrologist, Shaul Hurwitz and his coauthor, geology professor Michael Manga at the University of California, Berkeley, synthesize the current state of knowledge about geysers. The authors review past research, and point the way to answering future questions.
Because many of the processes associated with geyser eruptions are similar to those operating in volcanoes, understanding the mechanics of geysers and how they operate can lead to better understanding and predictions of volcanic eruptions.Read the full paper, The Fascinating and Complex Dynamics of Geyser Eruptions online.
Beginning November 7, and lasting two to four weeks, two exciting studies will take place while Yellowstone National Park is in between its summer and winter seasons. They are aimed at learning more about the shallow water system that fuels the famous hot springs, geysers, and other thermal features at Yellowstone. The first is a helicopter-borne electromagnetic study of geothermal areas near the Firehole River, along the Norris-Mammoth corridor, and at the north end of Yellowstone Lake. The second is a seismic study focusing on the area near Old Faithful. The need for these studies are a result of published recommendations from a 2013 scientific committee that formed with the goal to understand ways to reduce human impacts on the park's geothermal features and protect existing park infrastructure from encroachment of hot ground.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), University of Wyoming, and Aarhus University, Denmark, will collaborate to study the groundwater system that feeds the iconic hydrothermal features of Yellowstone National Park. Airborne geophysical electromagnetic (EM) surveys are one of the unique tools that experts can use to examine and map subsurface location, size, shape, salinity and temperature of groundwater. The survey will map important properties of soils and subsurface rocks in order to learn more about Yellowstone's groundwater resources. Because it involves low-level helicopter flights that may disturb park visitors, the research was allowed after roads officially close, and before it opens for winter use.
The University of Utah, in collaboration with the University of Texas El Paso and the National Park Service, will place closely spaced quart-jar-sized, portable seismometers around the Upper Geyser Basin, focusing on the immediate area around Old Faithful Geyser. This is a continuation of a project started in November 2015 when a more general array was deployed for two weeks. The principal objectives of these deployments are to create an image of the shallow seismic velocity structure of the Upper Geyser Basin. The results will help the park service plan for engineering projects relating to developed structures in the area. In addition, data will help scientists better understand the underground fluid flow pathways and hydrothermal properties between geysers and hot springs of the Upper Geyser Basin, including Old Faithful. Importantly, the dense grid of seismometers deployed on the cone of Old Faithful will help us learn more about how the geyser acts before, during, and after eruptions.To learn more about these surveys, download our November 2016 FAQ.