Volcano scientist says Yellowstone’s Steamboat geyser may stop erupting and ‘fall asleep’

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A geologist thinks that after nearly four years of steady activity, the Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park is likely slowing down again, returning to “dormancy”.

Michael Poland, scientist in charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, told the Cowboy State Daily on Friday that Steamboat hasn’t been as active recently as in 2018, 2019 and 2020, with only four eruptions recorded this year so far. .

“Most geysers don’t work like Old Faithful, which, as the name suggests, is quite reliable when it bursts, which is about every 94 minutes,” Poland said. “A lot of geysers have these phases where they come on and off, and Steamboat is a classic example where it goes for decades with very little activity and then suddenly comes alive.”

Steamboat erupted 32 times in 2018, 48 times in 2019 and 2020, but started to slow in 2021, with more than 20 eruptions. Prior to activity in 2018, the geyser had not been active since 2014.

Steamboat’s other most active periods were between 1982 and 1983, and before that, in the 1960s.

Steamboat is located in the Norris Geyser Basin inside the park and is the tallest active geyser in the world, shooting plumes of superheated water up to 400 feet high. But its eruptions are unpredictable, with the last few years marking its most active period in recorded history.

Poland said that due to more frequent activity at the geyser in recent years, researchers have managed to collect more data not only about Steamboat, but the surrounding area.

“Several research groups have been collecting seismic data and microphone data for the sounds of the eruptions and research is being published on the plumbing system under Steamboat that we wouldn’t have been able to see without all that eruption activity,” he said. -he declares. “One of the implications is that we can see the hot water plumbing system used by the seismicity associated with the eruptions, and that’s about 300 to 400 feet down.”

If Steamboat were to slow down or even “go back to sleep” for several years, Poland would not be surprised. Although the timing of the geyser’s eruptions is unpredictable, Poland believes it will likely be decades before another active eruption period occurs again like in 2018, if it occurs at all.

“I think the best word to describe these geysers is ‘dynamic’ because they are constantly changing,” he said. “Weather events, climate change and earthquakes can all impact geysers. My predecessor in this position had been here for 15 years and had seen maybe six steamboat eruptions. I’ve been here since 2017 and I’ve seen 200. So what chance do I have?

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