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


Geyser Wire
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USA TODAY

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Yellowstone Road Melts, Shutting Down Access To Famous Geysers
Huffington Post
A popular road through Yellowstone National Park was shut down on Thursday when the asphalt started to melt. The park says extreme heat from thermal areas is causing hot oil to bubble to the surface of Firehole Lake Drive, a scenic 3.3-mile loop that ...
Yellowstone National Park Closes Popular Geysers, Attractions Due to Melting ...The Weather Channel
Too hot: Yellowstone road meltsUSA TODAY
Yellowstone National Park road melts into 'soupy mess'Los Angeles Times
CBS Local -Minneapolis Star Tribune
all 222 news articles »
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The Inquisitr

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Reservoir of molten rock under Yellowstone is 2.5 times bigger than thought
EarthSky
Yellowstone presently contains numerous geysers and hotsprings. The new research at Yellowstone was conducted by Jamie Farrell and Robert Smith of the University of Utah, and Stephan Husen and Tobias Diehl of the Swiss Seismological Service.
Prediction: 2/3 of US could be devastatedWND.com
Yellowstone sees more thermal activityCoeur d'Alene Press

all 8 news articles »
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KSHB

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Yellowstone National Park: wildlife, waterfalls, geysers
Western Producer (subscription)
The wolf is likely taking food back to the pups at the den, about three kilometres away, explained a Yellowstone National Park ranger, who described the unfolding drama to curious visitors while trying to keep order among cars stopping along a narrow ...
June sees Yellowstone pass 1000000 visitors for 2014West Yellowstone News
Take in these 6 stunning natural wonders from Yellowstone National ParkKSHB
Glacier, Yellowstone voted in top 3 of nation's national parksHelena Independent Record

all 259 news articles »

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Yellowstone's geysers, gorges, trails and wildlife
Newsday
But the geysers are just the start of what Yellowstone offers: hiking, biking, camping, fishing, wildlife-spotting and more. Here are some Yellowstone basics, starting with the geysers. GEYSERS. Most of the park is easily accessible and most famous ...

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American Live Wire

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Randy Mann: Thermal activity melts part of Yellowstone road
The Spokesman Review
Yellowstone National Park – one of nature's most beautiful locations – lies on top of an active supervolcano with a number of active geysers and hot springs. On July 10, thermal regions below the park melted a portion of a popular road: Firehole Lake ...
Yellowstone National Park Closed Due To Massive Supervolcano Melting RoadsAmerican Live Wire
Geothermal Heat Melting Road in YellowstoneNature World News
Road melts at Yellowstone National ParkABC 57 News

all 45 news articles »

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Yellowstone: Old Faithful visit is just the start
Chicago Daily Herald
Grand Geyser, in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, is the tallest predictable geyser in the world, reaching 150 to 200 feet high. It's one of a number of geysers concentrated along a 30-mile stretch in the middle of the park. Associated Press file ...

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Yellowstone Insider

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Tips For Spending The Fourth of July in Yellowstone
Yellowstone Insider
Besides the geyser plains, Yellowstone's Grand Canyon is the Park's most splendorous attraction. The feature itself is entwined, not only in Yellowstone history, but national history as well. Famed landscape artist Thomas Moran established his ...
TODD G HIGDON: If you can, take a mini-road trip this weekendNeosho Daily News

all 2 news articles »

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Yellowstone: Tour brings best photo spots into focus
Los Angeles Times
Then, it was off to the Old Faithful geyser area, home of multiple geysers. If skies are gray, the challenge of capturing a geyser is even greater because steaming water tends to meld into the background. Some of our group nailed a rainbow in the ...

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GREEN PIECE:
The Weekender
I recently spent some time at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Montana and let me just say there may not be a more beautiful place in this country. Anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting knows that it's a sacred place. Vast herds of bison ...

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Luxury Travel Magazine

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Luxury Camping, Cycling Vacations Showcase Breathtaking Landscapes of ...
Luxury Travel Magazine
Wyoming Mountains, Geysers and Bison cycling tours include stops at Grand Teton National Park , Jackson, Yellowstone National Park including Old Faithful, Norris Geyser Basin, the Hot Springs Loop, the unique landscape of Mammoth Hot Springs and the ...

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