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


Geyser Wire
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CNN

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Magma expanse under Yellowstone supervolcano more vast than thought
CNN
It is a three to nine miles under the surface of the Earth and is what fuels the geysers, steaming puddles and other hot attractions. It alone has a volume 2.5 times that of the Grand Canyon. But those great magma expanses do not mean that the two ...
Magma chamber spotted under Yellowstone supervolcanoCTV News
Scientists Discover Gigantic Magma Reservoir beneath Yellowstone SupervolcanoSci-News.com
Magma expanse under Yellowstone supervolcanoKTVZ

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National Geographic Traveler Magazine (blog)

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The National Geographic Society
National Geographic Traveler Magazine (blog)
Our park tourists surrounding Beach Geyser reflect a relatively new mass fashion phenomenon—sunglasses. Besides regaling visitors that month with talks on the park's geology, flora, and fauna, Yellowstone's ... It's generally understood that ...

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Yellowstone Insider

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Old Faithful Geyser Mapping Begins Tomorrow
Yellowstone Insider
A scientific crew utilizing Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) will begin Old Faithful Geyser mapping tomorrow in Yellowstone National Park, scanning shallow subsurface structures like the thickness of the hot spring deposits, fractures, vents and cavities ...

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ActionNewsJax.com

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Volcano under Yellowstone is way bigger than we thought
ActionNewsJax.com
Remember Yellowstone? It's the one with the bison, the geysers, the scenery and, oh yeah, the giant supervolcano. That last part isn't as well-known, but it's there: an enormous magma chamber stationed directly under the nation's oldest national park.

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Wyoming Public Media

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Study Finds New Magma Reservoir Under Yellowstone
Wyoming Public Media
Researchers with the University of Utah have discovered large magma reservoir underneath the Yellowstone National Park caldera. In a report released Thursday, they say the new area lies 12 miles underground, below a shallower well-known magma ...
Colossal Magma Chamber Discovered Beneath Yellowstone SupervolcanoDaily Science Journal
Supervolcano under Yellowstone is much bigger than we thoughtAOL News

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Journal Gazette and Times-Courier

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Little Known Characters in America: John Colter
Journal Gazette and Times-Courier
Have you ever wondered who the first white man was who viewed the famous geyser in what is now Yellowstone Park? ... Arriving back at Fort Raymond, few would believe his stories of seeing geysers, bubbling mud pots and steaming pools of water.

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World Tech Today

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New Magma reserveiors found underneath Yellowstone super-volcanoes
World Tech Today
Yellowstone happens to be an exquisite destination for millions of people across the world when stroll between 300 active, bubbling, boiling, hissing vents of geysers. Researchers dub this place as one of the biggest time bombs ever formed naturally in ...

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CNN

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Free weekend entry at national parks
CNN
Though most of the National Park Service's 407 sites are free year-round, the 128 parks that charge a fee -- like Yellowstone and Yosemite -- will be free those two days. It's all part of National Park Week, happening April 18 through April 26, and it ...

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Smithsonian

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Daniel Boone's Wilderness Road
Smithsonian
Have you ever wondered why Yellowstone is full of hot springs, bubbling mudpots and geysers like Old Faithful? In this one-minute video, Ask Smithsonian host Eric Schulze explains the supervolcano that lies beneath this national park and answers the ...

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NBCNews.com

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Hot! Gigantic Magma Reservoir Found Under Yellowstone National Park
NBCNews.com
Yellowstone, which straddles the borders of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, boasts a remarkable array of geothermal features including geysers, mudpots, steam vents and hot springs. It sits atop a supervolcano that has had three calamitous past eruptions.

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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 America’s second largest geyser field (Puchuldiza, Chile), caused cessation in the field’s 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