Hot Wonders of Yellowstone

I am writing this post as a reference for my previous post Yellowstone National Park Trip Day 2
to explain the theories of various features at Yellowstone National Park that I have mentioned there. I got most of the details from their official newspaper,Yellowstone Today.
How Yellowstone Was Formed:
Yellowstone area was formed by a vast volcanic explosion.Much of Yellowstone sits inside an ancient volcanic caldera (the exploded crater of a volcano). The last major caldera forming eruption occurred 600,000 years ago. For hundreds of thousands of years following that, subsequent lava flows slowly filled in most of the caldera. Even now, in some places, nearly molten rock resides as little as 2-5 miles below the surface. Heat from the volcanic activity makes its presence known by heating ground water and creating the thermal features we now see. The four basic types of thermal features present in the Park are geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mudpots. I had seen all these four treasures of the park , but I thought all four were geysers in different stages, after seeing the movie and reading an article on these furthered my understanding.

How Geysers Work:
Geysers are hot springs with narrow spaces in their plumbing,usually near the surface. These constrictions prevent water from circulating freely to the surface where heat would escape.The deepest circulating water can exceed the surface boiling point(199 degF/93 deg C). The surrounding pressure also increases with depth, much as it does with depth in the ocean. Increased pressure exerted by the enormous weight of the overlying rock and water prevents the water from vaporizing.As the water rises steam forms.Bubbling upward,steam expands as it nears the top of the water column until the bubbles are too large and numerous to pass freely through the constrictions. At a critical point, the confined bubbles actually lift the water above,causing the geyser to splash or overflow. This decreases pressure on the system,and violent boiling results. Tremendous amounts of steam force water out of the vent, and the eruption begins. Water is expelled faster than it can enter the geyser’s plumbing system, and the heat and pressure gradually decrease. The eruption stops when the water reservoir is exhausted or when the gas bubbles diminish enough to be able to rise without ejecting the water.

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Facts about Old Faithful Geyser:
As of January 2010 an eruption lasts for 1.5 to 5 minutes.The average interval between eruption is 90 minutes, though the eruption duration, height,and the interval between eruptions varies daily and yearly,there has never been a day when Old Faithful Geyser has not erupted at around the same interval of time. This geyser’s height averages 130 feet (106- more than 180 feet), 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of water are expelled per eruption. The water temperature at the vent ,just prior to eruption is 204 deg F(95.6 deg c). Surprising ???

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If you would like to watch the video click here:

Hot Springs, are the most common hydrothermal features in the park. Unlike geysers, their plumbing has no constrictions.Superheated water cools as it reaches the surface,sinks, and is replaced by hotter water from below.This circulation,called convection, prevents water from reaching the temperature needed to set off an eruption.

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Mudpots, are acidic hot springs with a limited water supply. Some microorganisms use hydrogen sulfide, which rises from deep within the earth,as an energy source. They help convert the gas to sulfuric acid,which breaks down rock into clay. Various gases escape through the wet clay mud,causing it to bubble. Mudpot consistency and activity varies with the seasons and precipitation.

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If you would like to watch the video click here

Fumaroles or steam vents are the hottest hydrothermal features in the park.They have so little water that it all flashes into steam before reaching the surface.The result is a loud hissing of steam and gases.

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If you would like to watch the video click here

Hope this post helped you to understand the basic theory of geysers,hot springs, mudpots and fumaroles. This was just to show you what I was talking about and not any technical stuff as you can see.

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