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


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Yellowstone Insider

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Yellowstone History: The Name of Minute Man Geyser
Yellowstone Insider
Now, that's not just because there are numerous geysers in Yellowstone National Park. Over the years, the name has traveled around the park several times. The reason is simple: in every case, “Minute Man” designates a feature that erupts constantly.


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Birding: A trip with geysers, wildlife and so many birds
Press Herald
The next one was predicted around 11 a.m. We had 45 minutes to drive 17 miles to the geyser. We arrived about 10 minutes before it erupted, and it was a particularly large eruption. Old Faithful is one of the 300 geysers in Yellowstone. Hot springs ...

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International Business Times UK

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Yellowstone becomes Greenstone: Tourism blamed for famous hot spring's ...
International Business Times UK
Tourism has been blamed for the change in colour at Yellowstone National Park's famous "Morning Glory" geyser which has seen the once crystal-blue water turn yellowy-green. Tourists from all over the world flock to the "Morning Glory" hot spring to ...

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MyFox Atlanta

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Photographer captures Milky Way over Yellowstone National Park
MyFox Atlanta
Solitary Geyser in Yellowstone Park is anything but solitary this night. While it steams and erupts so does a large eruption from the Lion Group far below. Additionally 2 Perseid meteors flash across the vista. Two parallel faint satellite trails cross ...
One-Day Trip: Grizzly & Wolf Discovery CenterYellowstone Insider

all 3 news articles »
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Salon

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The real Grizzly Man: No one knows brown bears like Vietnam vet, monkey ...
Salon
Earlier my 9-year-old daughter, Hadley, and I had driven north into Yellowstone, then hurtled through the park, barely stopping to take in the famous geysers, late for our date with the Grizzly Man. Not the over-the-top, aspiring actor from L.A ...

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USA TODAY

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Yellowstone National Park: Dizzying diversity starts at doorstep
USA TODAY
A sweeping mountain view, eagles floating over a meandering river, elk wandering through an old Army fort — each entry into Yellowstone National Park makes a different first impression. There's no wrong way to enter the world's first national park ...

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Washington Post

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Bison selfies are a bad idea: Tourist gored in Yellowstone as another photo ...
Washington Post
Every year, more than three million people pour into Yellowstone National Park, eager to escape the cramped cubicles and tiny apartments from whence they came. They gaze upon the geysers. They marvel at the mountains and valleys. They hike around ...
Bison attacks woman who was trying to take selfie with it in Yellowstone ParkCNN
Yet another Yellowstone tourist injured trying to take selfie with bisonfox4kc.com
The Downbeat #1686: The Yellowstone EditionSLC Dunk

all 299 news articles »
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University of Wyoming News

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Magma Discovery in Yellowstone Topic of AMK Ranch Talk July 23
University of Wyoming News
A giant magma system fuels Yellowstone's geyser-hot spring system, including the world's tallest geyser, Steamboat Geyser, Smith says. He also will discuss how an interpretation of earthquakes and ground deformation supports the dynamics of lateral ...
Park visitation sees increase over 2014 in first six monthsWest Yellowstone News

all 12 news articles »
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Waikato Times

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Clear your diaries - it's film fest time again
Waikato Times
Waikato cinephiles will be clearing their diaries and setting aside their spare cash, in preparation for the arrival of the annual New Zealand International Film Festival's Hamilton season. Fifty-eight films and three short film ... Deathgasm is a ...

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USA TODAY

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Bison attacks at Yellowstone National Park lead to warnings
USA TODAY
On June 23, an off-duty concession employee came upon a bison while walking off the trail after dark in the Lower Geyser Basin area. And on Wednesday, a visitor encountered a bison while hiking the Storm Point trail in the Yellowstone Lake area.

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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 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