The Beating Heart Of Old Faithful Geyser Revealed

Posted: Oct 7 2017, 7:35am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 7 2017, 7:41am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

The Beating Heart of Old Faithful Geyser Revealed
Yellowstone National Park's most famous landmark attracts millions of visitors every year

Scientists map the pathways beneath the geyser for the first time

Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful is unarguably the most famous geyser in the United States. It erupts every hour or two and spews steam more than 180 feet into the air. The landmark is visited by millions of people every year, but despite all the fame its geology is still largely unknown.

Recently, a team of researchers has mapped out the surface around the Old Faithful and presented a clearer picture of how the geyser erupts, what its geothermal structures look like under the ground and what happens underground when they're getting ready for an eruption.

The map was made possible by a series of portable seismographs and by new seismic analysis techniques. Not only does the map offer a unique glimpse at the mechanism existing beneath the Old Faithful geyser but it could also be used to predict the eruption of other less explored geysers.

"It's known around the world, but the complete geologic plumbing of Yellowstone's Upper Geyser Basin has not been mapped nor have we studied how the timing of eruptions is related to precursor ground tremors before eruptions." Robert Smith, a long-time Yellowstone researcher said.

Yellowstone National Park sits atop a huge reserve of magma. The site harbors many geothermal features including the famous Old Faithful geyser and it has puzzled geophysicists for decades, because mapping it out would require capturing everyday miniature ground movement and seismic energy on a very small scale

In the latest effort, researchers from Utah University deployed 30 permanent seismometers around the park and recorded the jolts produced by earthquakes and volcanic events.

“We try to use continuous ground shaking produced by humans, cars, wind, water and Yellowstone's hydrothermal boilings and convert it into our signal," said study co-author Fan-Chi Lin says. "We can extract a useful signal from the ambient background ground vibration."

Sensors picked up bursts of intense seismic activity for 60 minutes, followed by a quiet period of 30 minutes. Surprisingly, geyser erupts not at the peak of shaking but at the end, just before everything goes quiet again. After an eruption, it fills itself with hot water again.

"As that cavity fills up, you have a lot of hot pressurized bubbles," explains study co-author Jamie Farrell. "When they come up, they cool off really rapidly and they collapse and implode."

As a part of future plan, researchers will conduct similar geologic survey around Norris Geyser basin, the hottest geothermal area of the park.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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