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All posts tagged geysers

Knowing that lots of people would like to learn how geysers work, I’ll take a stab at explaining the requirements and the mechanism as simply as possible.

What is required to create a geyser and what’s happening when it erupts? All geysers have four requirements: water, heat, the right kind of rock, and a system of conduits and reservoirs (plumbing) that includes one or more constrictions to keep water and steam from flowing freely to the surface. The water pooled above such constrictions acts like a lid to maintain pressure on water below. Such constrictions differentiate geysers from the much more common hot springs. Although no one has yet been able to see exactly what this plumbing looks like, it must be something like this diagramGeyser Mechanism Figure drawn by my husband Bruno Giletti for Yellowstone Treasures. The countless different shapes the underground plumbing may take must account for the great variety in the patterns and timing of Yellowstone’s geyser eruptions—what I call their personalities.

Whether the water comes from the vent in the distinctive cone of Beehive Geyser2004_BeehiveG. or from the beautiful geyserite-ringed pool of Great Fountain Geyser, 2008_GreatFtnG the mechanism is the same.

Deep below the geyser’s vent or pool seen at the surface is a kind of rock that is rich in silica. In Yellowstone this rock, called rhyolite, was deposited in huge amounts when the caldera erupted. Silica is the primary element in the hydrous silicon dioxide (technical name for geyserite) that is deposited both along the conduits of the geyser’s water passages and all around its surface vent.

Also deep below a geyser are (1) a source of heat—in Yellowstone it is the still extremely hot volcanic rocks more than two miles below the surface—and (2) the water that has seeped into the earth from snowmelt and rain (meteoric water), and voila!—the geyser erupts.

As water gradually fills the reservoirs and is heated from below, it becomes superheated and forms steam bubbles, and the water pressure increases. Eventually, the steam pushes some water out of the vent, and steam—which requires something like a thousand times more space than water—is also released. When the pressure is thus sufficiently reduced, the steam in the conduit can blow the water column out of the vent. In many geysers, when the water supply is exhausted, the remaining steam continues for the steam phase of the eruption.

I have gleaned some ideas for this post from the sidebar my husband Bruno Giletti, a geochemist, wrote in Yellowstone Treasures (pages 88 and 89) and from T. Scott Bryan, a former ranger and also a geologist and author of books about geysers, including his Geysers: What They Are and How They Work. But as early as the mid 19th century, German scientist Eberhard von Bunsen and others already had it pretty well figured out. You can find out more about the study of the geyser mechanisms here in my September 2013 post.

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Navigating around yellowstonetreasures.com

Categories: Geysers, On the Web, Wildlife
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You might like to know how to make the most of your visits to yellowstonetreasures.com, so I’ve decided to provide you with a sort of navigational post.

First, on the home page, by clicking on the white bar below the row of pictures at the top, you can move across the page and find seven different pictures. Then, clicking on any one of the pictures or on the descriptions below them takes you to a page related in one way or another to the home page picture. For instance, clicking on the elk gives you a detailed article about the resident elk herd at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Also on the home page, moving your cursor across the top yellow strip to click on Author Blog, you will find the page with our current posts (most written by Author Janet, but some by Editor and Publisher Beth). At the top right of this page is a search box where you can enter a word and come up with all the blog posts and pages (or nuggets) covering that subject here since May of 2009. I just put in the word “bears” and found 18 posts and 8 nuggets discussing grizzlies and black bears. A search for “geysers” brought up 28 posts and 24 nuggets.

On every single page of the website, you can find things another way by scrolling down and entering your search word in the Search box at the bottom right.

One further search aid you might find helpful while you are on either the main Nuggets or Author Blog pages, is the Categories and Archives boxes at the lower right.

Happy navigating in 2015!

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Happy New Year, 2015

Categories: Geysers, News
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Grotto Fountain Geyser Jim Peaco 2001

YELLOWSTONE TREASURES: Accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

Credit: NPS photo of Grotto Fountain Geyser by Jim Peaco, July 2001.

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Morning Glory Pool—Queen of Yellowstone’s Beautiful Hot Springs

Categories: Thermal features
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If Old Faithful is historically the world’s most famous geyser, then Morning Glory Pool is surely the park’s most famous hot spring. This has been the case for almost the entire history of Yellowstone Park. But, like all Yellowstone thermal features, Morning Glory has not stayed the same.

The Grand Loop Road, that famous figure-eight-shaped main road in the park, went within a few yards of Morning Glory Pool (and also of Old Faithful Geyser) until the road’s rerouting in 1969. This proximity to Morning Glory helps explain the pool’s early popularity and also its appeal to vandals.

At the time it was named, probably in 1883, the name Morning Glory was entirely appropriate, since it was named for the common garden flower. Its shape was a perfect funnel and its water was a super-clear pale blue color. Early writers called it “a cerulean jewel” and its water “of the loveliest, clearest robin’s egg blue.” The color was due to a water temperature too high for the growth of bacteria or algae, even near the edge.

Morning Glory was surrounded by a border of scalloped geyserite as much as 10 inches wide and 5 inches high. Souvenir hunters had managed to remove every bit of this border before Jack Haynes photographed this view of the pool.
MorningGlory_Pool
From the first half of the 1900s

As more and more tourists passed by closely on the road, many of them also seemed to find it irresistible to throw things in. The pool’s only known natural eruption occurred in 1944, but in 1950 an eruption was induced in order to clean out the vent. Rangers found $86.27 in pennies, other coins, clothing that included 76 handkerchiefs and “delicate items of underclothing,” and items as large as logs, according to T. Scott Bryan’s The Geysers of Yellowstone.

By mid century, due to all the vandalism and consequent lowering of the temperature, concentric rings of bright yellow and orange bacteria and algae grew around the blue center, to the point where the name is now not really appropriate.

Since the 1970s the road has become an asphalt path for bicyclists and pedestrians. Although most visitors today observe the rules and have the good sense not to throw things into hot springs, cleaning out Morning Glory Pool is still needed from time to time. The temperature also may vary from natural causes, and the colors vary as a result, as you can see from pictures of the pool in successive decades taken by my friend and colleague Suzanne Cane.
SC_0195_Morning Glory Pool in 2003
2003

SC_0193_Morning Glory Pool
2013

Contemplating Morning Glory Pool has inspired me to create a list of my favorite 20 easily found hot springs in Yellowstone. They occur in numerous other areas besides Upper Geyser Basin, where Morning Glory is located. I revisit most of them every time I visit the park. You can find some of them described and pictured in five of the Nuggets on this website, such as in the Itinerary for a family trip nugget or the one about West Thumb Geyser Basin. And gorgeous Crested Pool appears on the cover of our new Visiting Geyserland e-book. I’ll write about some other favorites in the months to come—it will be a delightful memory trip for my off-season months!

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More about my geyser day

Categories: Geysers, Trip Reports
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riverside geyser firehole river

Riverside Geyser (2004)

While I waited for Grand on August 12, 2014, several geyser gazers mentioned that Riverside Geyser was due around 1:30 pm, so I thought (although I hadn’t brought a lunch)—why not stay out in the basin? So on I went to relax in the shade at Riverside and catch its 1:55 pm eruption—a little less rewarding than sometimes, because the wind was blowing the water and steam back at the geyser cone. It couldn’t create a beautiful drape across the river, as I’ve seen many other times. [This ten-year-old photo shows a faint rainbow, something else to look for when you visit. –Ed.]

Just as I approached on the long walk back up the paved road (the former Grand Loop Road), Castle obliged me with my fourth major eruption of the day at about 2:25 pm.

But that was not all! After some sustenance and a rest, I took off again for the early evening eruption of Great Fountain. A few minutes after establishing myself with a book on the viewing bench, my neighbors on the bench and I struck up a conversation. Nine-year-old Emma from Portland wanted to tell me all about her many trips to the park and environs and to pick my brains about what I knew, so the book was put away.

I timed the first overflow of Great Fountain at 6:38 and knew we still had at least 45 minutes to wait, so I asked Emma if she’d like to walk back along the road to see Surprise Pool and Firehole Spring. She asked her father’s permission, and off we went. Like me, she was mesmerized watching the big white bubble of steam rise over and over in Firehole Spring and sometimes burst at the surface. And I had to scold her father for never stopping there on the way to Great Fountain.

Nevertheless, Emma had a one-up on me, when she said she’d been to Oblique Geyser—and I haven’t. I’m more inclined to call it Avalanche Geyser (see “A Yellowstone rock in the Smithsonian, Part II“—but I’ve never been there.

Great Fountain began its significant bursts at 7:21. Never having seen it erupt on the same day as Grand, I had never noted the contrast in their eruptions. Grand pushes up its water higher and higher and continues with constant jetting until it all disappears down its big hole. But it’s always worth waiting a few minutes, because as on this day, it can return with one (or sometimes more) great spoutings; on this day, the second was higher than the first, as I caught on my second video:

In contrast, Great Fountain begins rather tentatively (and may have a blue bubble at its base, but not this time). It seems to die back, then surges up again numerous times. I watched for only 20 minutes but suspect it went on longer.

And so to rest, with visions of spouting waters to last me another year.

CREDIT: The photo of Riverside Geyser was taken by my son-in-law Niklas Dellby on August 5, 2004.

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Geyser Day 2014

Categories: Geysers, Trip Reports
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Since I never tire of watching Yellowstone’s geysers, this year I gave myself all of one day, August twelfth, for chasing the best eruptions. I was richly rewarded.

Starting early, before the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center opened and posted its predictions, I took a chance that there might be an early morning eruption of Great Fountain Geyser that I could catch, but sitting at its shapely formation for 45 minutes, I saw only small bursts and had to conclude that I had missed it.

Still, delighted to find that my FRS radio worked even nine miles from Old Faithful, I heard that Fountain Geyser (in the Fountain Paint Pot area) had started erupting at 9:12, so I got there as quickly as exceeding the speed limit (just a little) would allow. I was in time to witness the latter part of Fountain’s eruption, which continued until 9:48. Jet Geyser was spouting in all directions, and little Twig Geyser contributed, too.

Red Spouter’s northern vent was acting as a very loud fumarole, and the southern vent was boiling vigorously, showing that the water table is relatively high for this late in the summer, thanks to ample rainfall. A clever new sign at the Paint Pot gives us the “Recipe for Mudpots.”

Fortunately, I had arrived at the parking lot before the 10:00 am crush, when tour buses and the majority of private vehicles make parking next to impossible. (The same was true this August at Norris Geyser Basin.)

Being able to phone the Old Faithful V.E.C. for geyser predictions this year proved its value: I learned from calling (307) 344-2751 (x2) that I might get back to Upper Geyser Basin in time for Grand Geyser, whose four-hour window was given as 9:15 am to 1:15 pm. Sure enough, arriving at Grand at 11:23, I had only a half-hour wait. Just after the second Turban Geyser eruption that I witnessed, Grand began and gloriously lived up to its name. Its two bursts spanned about fourteen minutes, and I was able to record some of the high points on my iPhone. This was one of the highest and most exciting Grand eruptions I’ve seen in recent memory.

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Janet celebrates her 75th anniversary in the park, part 5

Categories: Bio, Geysers
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In this last installment of this series of her park memoirs, Janet focuses on her geyser memories. If you are just tuning in now, you might want to start with her first post in the series.

Geysers

Old Faithful 2013

Old Faithful Geyser from Observation Point (2013)

The bunkhouse room we slept in faced Old Faithful Geyser. Of course, we watched it often, but we rarely went close. I do not know whether other predictable geyser eruptions were posted in those days, and we never went to wait for Grand or Riverside. I see from George Marler’s Inventory of Thermal Features of the Firehole River Geyser Basins (Geyser Observation and Study Association, 1994) that Grand’s average eruption interval was something like 38 hours in those years.

Two geysers we did see quite often when I got to live at Old Faithful were Great Fountain and Lone Star, both accessible by road in those days. We would take a lunch and a book or our game of Parcheesi and Mother would drive us out north or south to wait for these geysers to erupt. It seems to me we would often have them to ourselves.

The most thrilling geyser-viewing experience I can remember was being roused in the night to drive over to see Giant erupt. Daddy took me on his shoulders so I could see over the crowd. Somehow, the group excitement made more of an impression on me than the actual eruption! According to the Marler Inventory, the first half of the 1940s was a relatively quiet time for Giant, so I was privileged to be there at an eruption. And the next time I got to see one was on July 3, 2006—again with a lot of excited viewers.

Besides going to Lone Star or Great Fountain geysers, we often visited Biscuit or Midway geyser basins. I remember that the surrounding “biscuits” at Sapphire Pool were outstanding; they were destroyed when the pool erupted after the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake.

I now realize how extrememly fortunate I was to spend so much time during formative years in the magic environment of Yellowstone. It is ironic that one of the most potentially dangerous places in the world—the Yellowstone Caldera—is also, if one takes sensible precautions, one of the safest.

Our months in the park were some of the most benign and happy of my life. No doubt this is why in my later years I have been thoroughly engrossed in learning and writing about the park I love.

by Janet Chapple

ON THIS WEBSITE: Be sure to see the nugget called “Wonderful Geysers Not to Miss,” and there is a lot more information about geysers elsewhere on the site and, of course, in the guidebook.


The full article “Celebrating an Old Faithful Area Seventieth Anniversary,” was published in August 2009 in The Geyser Gazer Sput, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 5-8.
Janet wrote a longer version of these memoirs at the instigation of Park Historian Lee Whittlesey, and they are now preserved in the library of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Montana.

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Janet celebrates her 75th anniversary in the park, part 4

Categories: Bio, Flora and Fauna
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ranger station museum Old Faithful 1953My sister Joan was a life-long games person, becoming a fine contract bridge player and a tournament Scrabble player in her later years, besides making games out of every chore in her life—including the routines she recommended to her piano pupils. She could make a game out of anything, including something as simple as balancing on the logs that surrounded the Old Faithful Ranger Station and Museum. We would collect state names on license plates to see if we could find at least one car from each of the then 48 states. And we played lots of card games and board games, too.

As often as Mother would allow it, we would go into the museum to mosey around and talk to the rangers. One of the rangers called us “Dimples.” Perhaps he was the same one who gave us a copy of Cubby in Wonderland by Frances Joyce Farnsworth and signed it “From Ben Lundquist, 1942.” We loved that book and its sequel, Cubby Returns. Some years ago I read those books to my grandsons.

I remember the specimens of park rocks in the museum and the samples of plant matter such as the cones and needles from the different evergreens of the park. There were a few small stuffed animals. I think there was a large bear, too, but I’m not sure about that. I would have stayed well away from it.

I also remember the model of a geyser, but I don’t think I ever saw it working. (I have read somewhere that Jack Haynes built a geyser model, and perhaps it is still in the archives. But I have found a reference (in Yellowstone Nature Notes, July 30, 1926) to models made by Chief Naturalist Ansel F. Hall and placed at Old Faithful and Mammoth. [See my September 13, 2010, post on this blog for the exhibits you can now find at the new Old Faithful Visitor Education Center.]

In back of the ranger station and museum was an amphitheater with a screen (now part of the huge west parking lot). I don’t remember the pictures shown on the screen or the subjects of the rangers’ talks, but I do remember well the sing-alongs that always ended the evenings. I know we sang “Home on the Range” and “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain,” and many others.

Our local world was bounded by the Inn, the bunkhouse, the museum, and the geyser, but I remember that a favorite place where Joan and I played was around the bridge over the Firehole River behind the geyser. To this day I am strongly attracted to that spot, and I always spend a little time there early in the morning when I visit Old Faithful.

More from Janet’s memoirs in the last post of this series . . . .
CREDIT: The photo of the Old Faithful Museum is from the Haynes Guide, 1953.


The full article “Celebrating an Old Faithful Area Seventieth Anniversary,” was published in August 2009 in The Geyser Gazer Sput, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 5-8.
Janet wrote a longer version of these memoirs at the instigation of Park Historian Lee Whittlesey, and they are now preserved in the library of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Montana.

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The underground mechanism of geysers

Categories: Geysers, Science
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In Earth Magazine for August 2013, I was fascinated to read about two recent studies that have shown convincingly that the very oldest theory explaining geyser activity may be close to the truth, although knowledge is still incomplete and may not apply to all geysers.

Sir George Steuart Mackenzie postulated after visiting Iceland’s geysers in 1810 that a geyser’s plumbing needs to include a horizontal cavity serving as a bubble chamber. There, after an eruption, more and more steam can accumulate between the surface of the water and the roof of the cavity, gradually building up pressure. When the pressure grows too high, the steam and water escape through the geyser’s vertical shaft.

Iceland’s geysers were not part of the studies reported by modern Russian and French researchers. They studied (respectively) the Kamchatka Geyser Valley and Yellowstone’s Old Faithful. Volcanologist Alexander Belousov concluded, by lowering video cameras into their shafts, that four geysers in the Kamchatka field have similar configurations that fit Mackenzie’s bubble trap model.

Geophysicist Jean Vandemeulebrouck meanwhile has been revisiting 1992 data from geophones located around Old Faithful Geyser by seismologist Sharon Kedar. By digitizing and analyzing her data, the French team were able to obtain an acoustic picture of OFG’s inner workings. They found that pressure builds up in a bubble trap there between geyser eruptions, just as in the Russian study.

Belousov suggests that the similarity of internal structures could be attributed to landslides in the case of the Kamchatka geysers and to glacial moraine deposits in Yellowstone and El Tatio, Chile (the third of the world’s primary geyser fields). Both types of terrain form conduits and cavities underground, as well as being located over sources of water and geothermal heat.

Besides reading Earth Magazine this month, I gleaned some information for this post from my newly published travelogue by Jules Leclercq, Yellowstone, Land of Wonders, page 117.

Cliff Geyser on Iron Spring Creek

DSCN1762

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Grand GeyserNot having traveled with children in the park for a great many years, I learned a couple of things new to me that might be useful for other parents and grandparents to know about. Stuffed animal toys that Xanterra places in hotel rooms and that I have always pushed out of the way to make room for my own stuff are—not surprisingly—a magnet for little ones. My granddaughter Lexi ended the visit the proud owner of a cuddly bison and an even cuddlier black bear!

Be forewarned that the hotels no longer provide cots in your room for kids. But they are happy to loan you some bedding, so we made nests for Lexi on the floor—and she was out like a light in two minutes each night after crawling in with her animals.

One of our most delightful shared experiences was our geyser day at Upper Geyser Basin. Starting by going to the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center at 8:00 am to copy down the predictions for six major geysers, we set out after breakfast to catch the Grand Geyser eruption, predicted to erupt within about one-and-one-half hours of 10:40 am. Lexi did not complain at all about the wait, and when Grand accommodated us at 11:20 (above) and again with a second beautiful burst at 11:37, she was every bit as thrilled as the other hundred or so visitors watching it.

We went on to visit the wonderful pools and formations beyond Grand and were just in time to catch the Riverside Geyser eruption a little after 1:00 pm. Then our party split into two, and, fortuitously, Suzanne, David, and I caught Grotto Fountain and Grotto Geysers erupting on our way to see Punch Bowl Spring and Black Sand Pool. Returning from that extension of the trail, there was Daisy Geyser erupting as we came back to it! Not to be outdone, Beehive’s Indicator was going before we got back to the Inn, and we were able to see the whole Beehive Geyser eruption. Then, for “dessert,” Old Faithful joined the display not long afterwards. What a geyser day!

2013

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