- Geyserworld -
Alan Glennon, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara


Geyser Wire
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Yellowstone Insider

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Yellowstone History: Steamboat Geyser
Yellowstone Insider
Although it has not always been the tallest of all time—there are several past geysers that have surmounted Steamboat, including Excelsior Geyser in Midway Geyser Basin—Steamboat Geyser has no real competition right now. And yet, while it's the ...

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9news.com.au

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Geyser bursts into life in middle of New Zealand city centre
9news.com.au
Parts of a New Zealand city have been closed after an old geyser suddenly burst back into life in the CBD and started spitting steam and water 15m into the air. Rotorua city, on the country's north island, is well-known for its geothermal activity ...
'Geyser' erupts in Rotorua streetNew Zealand Herald
Hot geyser erupts in central RotoruaThe Construction Index
Old bore erupts in Rotorua's CBDTVNZ

all 14 news articles »
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Yellowstone Insider

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Yellowstone Spotlight: Lone Star Geyser
Yellowstone Insider
In our experience, the most popular geysers in Yellowstone National Park tend to be the most predictable ones. This makes sense. We want our attractions to be reliable and regular. It's why Old Faithful Geyser is revered. Yes, it's glorious and tall ...

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Yellowstone Insider

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Yellowstone History: The Yellowstone Lake Islands
Yellowstone Insider
Most of the Yellowstone Lake islands aren't broadly noteworthy in Yellowstone National Park's history, with the exception of Dot Island. Dot Island was the site of a zoo, run by one E.C. Waters, who kept bison and elk in pens there. Visitors could take ...


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Response to Stephen Corry in Truthout criticizing parks and wildlands protection
The Wildlife News
When Yellowstone was created, there was no National Park Service, and in the early years, without rangers or other government entities, the park suffered from market hunters, poachers, and other outlaws who were hauling off parts of petrified trees ...

and more »
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Livemint

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Scientists Discover Cause Of 'Strange' Earthquakes Away From Fault Lines
Focus News
Scientists have discovered the mechanism that generates earthquakes which occur away from tectonic plate boundaries. While earthquakes along tectonic plate boundaries are caused by motion between the plates, earthquakes away from fault lines are ...
Scientists find why earthquakes occur away from fault linesLivemint
Scientists discover mechanism behind 'strange' earthquakesSpace Daily
Scientists discover the cause of divergent earthquakesPc-Tablet Media

all 17 news articles »
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Stuff.co.nz

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Where to eat in Rotorua
Stuff.co.nz
We meet a little later in a marquee overlooking Pohutu, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere, to eat our freshly extracted Rotorua-style hangi. As far as food is concerned, ... What brought her to New Zealand? "Bush got re-elected and ...

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Yellowstone Insider

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Yellowstone Books: Yellowstone Place Names
Yellowstone Insider
Unsurprisingly, they number in the hundreds, from geysers to hot springs to creeks to tumbling cataracts. Furthermore, every one of these Yellowstone place names have a story behind them. From the most banal (Black Butte, Gray Spring) to the most ...

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Yellowstone Insider

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More Yellowstone Waterfalls To Check Out
Yellowstone Insider
Yellowstone waterfalls do not get as much credit as Yellowstone geysers for beautifying the Park, but they're just as attractive. ... Collectively—from the likes of Old Faithful and Steamboat Geyser alongside the smallest, most anonymous fumarole ...

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Sierra Vista Herald

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A Fork in the Road
Sierra Vista Herald
Yellowstone National Park's western entrance began this part of my journey. This park is one of my favorites with wildlife abounding. Even if you miss that, the park is full of the not so elusive hydrothermal activity. Boiling mud, erupting geysers ...

What are geysers and why are they so rare?
Last update: 9 August 2008

A geyser is a hot spring that periodically erupts, throwing water into the air. Though that sounds simple, geysers are extremely rare. As of August 2008, the total of active geysers on earth numbered approximately 1000.

Pink Cone Geyser, Yellowstone, photo by Alan Glennon Conditions must be just right for geysers to occur. Three components must be present for geysers to exist: an abundant supply of water, an intense source of heat, and unique plumbing. Water is common in nature, heat can come from volcanic activity, but the plumbing is critical. For water to be thrown into the air, geyser plumbing must be water- and pressure-tight. Geyser scientists and observers have identified the volcanic rock rhyolite as being particularly effective at hosting geysers. Rhyolite is high in silica, which can deposit a water-tight seal along the walls of the geyser plumbing. Most of the geyser fields in the world are found in rhyolite or similar silica-laden rocks (like ignimbrite). The mixture of water, volcanic heat, and plumbing is exceptional at Yellowstone National Park. Over one-half of the world's geysers are located within the park's boundaries.

It is increasingly apparent that geysers must possess a fourth characteristic to exist: remoteness. Within the last fifty years, volcanic heat and abundant water have been increasingly harnessed to turn turbines for electricity production. Geothermal energy can be produced at any site where volcanic heat and water are readily available. Unfortunately, geyser fields are ideal for this type of energy production. Geothermal energy production steals the geysers' water, and destroys geyser activity (for example, Wairakei, New Zealand). A growing threat to geysers stems from mineral extraction. Hot groundwater may precipitate gold or other valuable minerals, and extraction may require removing the geyser plumbing itself. For example, in May 2003, mineral exploration at South Americas second largest geyser field (Puchuldiza, Chile), caused cessation in the fields geysers. Few realize the actual rarity of geysers. As a result, many geyser fields have been destroyed and many others are being threatened.

How do geysers work?

The following is an excerpt from Scott Bryan's GEYSERS OF YELLOWSTONE, 3rd edition, copyright 2001. It is reproduced here for educational purposes. Scott Bryan's book not only describes each Yellowstone geyser in detail, but also includes descriptions of geyser fields worldwide. It is probably the best book on geysers out there. Buy it or check it out!

The hot water, circulating up from great depth, flows into the plumbing system of a geyser. Because this water is many degrees above the boiling point, some of it turns to steam instead of forming liquid pools. Meanwhile, additional, cooler water is flowing into the geyser from the porous rocks nearer the surface. The two waters mix as the plumbing system fills.

Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone National Park, Photo by Alan Glennon The steam bubbles formed at depth rise and meet the cooler water. At first, they condense there, but as they do they gradually heat the water. Eventually, these steam bubbles rising from deep within the plumbing system manage to heat the surface water until it also reaches the boiling point. Now the geyser begins to function like a pressure cooker. The water within the plumbing system is hotter than boiling, but "stable" because of the pressure exerted by all the water lying above it. (Remember that the boiling point of a liquid is dependent upon the pressure. The boiling point of pure water 212 degrees Farenheit (100 degrees Celsius) at sea level. In Yellowstone the elevation is about 7,500 feet, the pressure is lower, and the boiling point of water is only about 199 degrees Farenheit (93 degrees Celsius).

The filling and heating process continues until the geyser is full or nearly full of water. A very small geyser may take but a few seconds to fill whereas some of the larger geysers take several days. Once the plumbing system is full the geyser is about ready for an eruption. Often forgotten but of extreme importance is the heating that must occur along with the filling. Only if there is an adequate store of heat within the rocks lining the plumbing system can an eruption last for more than a few seconds. Again, each geyser is different from every other. Some are hot enough to erupt before they are completely full and do so without any preliminary indications of an eruption. Others may be completely full well before they are hot enough to erupt and so may overflow quietly for some time before an eruption occurs. But, eventually, the eruption will take place.

Because the water of the entire plumbing system has been heated to boiling, the rising steam bubbles no longer collapse near the surface. Instead, as more very hot water enters the geyser at great depth, even more and larger steam bubbles form and rise toward the surface. At first, they are able to make it all the way to the top of the plumbing system. But a time will come when there are so many steam bubbles that they can no longer simply float upwards. Somewhere they encounter some sort of constriction or bend in the plumbing. To get by they must squirt through the narrow spot. This forces some water ahead of them and up and out of the geyser. This initial loss of water reduces the pressure at depth, lowering the boiling point of water already hot enough to boil. More water boils, forming more steam. Soon there is a virtual explosion as the steam expands to over 1,500 times its original, liquid volume. The boiling rapidly becomes violent and water is ejected so rapidly that it is thrown into the air.

The eruption will continue until either the water is used up or the temperature drops below boiling. Once an eruption has ended. the entire process of filling, heating, and boiling will be repeated, leading to another eruption.

Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone - Alan Glennon 2004

In Depth


To reference this page, use the appropriate variation of the following format:

J. Alan Glennon. (2008) About Geysers, http://www.geyserworld.com, University of California, Santa Barbara, originally posted January 1995, updated August 9, 2008.

T. Scott Bryan (2001) The Geysers of Yellowstone, 3rd edition, University Press of Colorado: Boulder, pp.472.


For more information, contact:
J. Alan Glennon
Department of Geography
University of California
Santa Barbara, California 93106

e-mail: glennon(at)umail.ucsb.edu