The Edifying Beauty of Geysers

Old Faithful Geyser erupts on a clear winter day in Yellowstone National Park (Credit: Jacob W. Frank, National Park Service. Public domain.)

Geysers are a rare occurrence. There are only about 1,000 of them in the world, half of which are located in the United States’ Yellowstone National Park. They also take different forms, with varying frequencies, sizes, or lengths of eruption. Despite over 200 years of study, they are still poorly understood, but scientists persist in their exploration: geyser processes provide a scale model for the processes of volcanic eruptions, and they could give us clues on how to predict and prepare for such events.

In the 2017 Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Shaul Hurwitz, of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Michael Manga, of the University of California, Berkeley, discuss the current state of the science on geysers. They also delineate the questions that must yet be answered. The article, titled “The Fascinating and Complex Dynamics of Geyser Eruptions,” was highlighted by the U.S. Geological Survey.

They examine the geography and geology of geysers, their chemistry, the dynamics of their eruption. They ask why some erupt continuously and others only from time to time, why some erupt at great heights and others don’t, why some erupt regularly and other unpredictably.

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