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The underground structure of the world’s largest geyser finally explored

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Researchers based in the United States have conducted yet another study on the Steamboat Geyser, the largest geyser in the world. However, the goal this time was to explore its underground structure sinking more than a hundred meters deep in Yellowstone National Park.

New knowledge about the geyser

Covering an area of ​​nearly 9,000 km², Yellowstone National Park in the United States is home to no less than 400 geysers. These hot springs spring up from time to time, offering a magnificent spectacle in the park. Among them is the Steamboat Geyser which is able to project water to more than one hundred meters in height. It is simply the largest active geyser in the world. While his last awakening was in March 2018 and researchers from the University of Utah took the opportunity to explore its depths. Their report was published in the Geophysical Research Journal March 7, 2021.

During the summer of 2018 and 2019, scientists deployed around fifty seismometers laptops around the source. Each of these devices in the tiller of a soccer ball had the task of detecting and recording movements in the ground. However, each seismic movement makes it possible to know what is happening in depth and to have a glimpse of the underground surface.

In the summer of 2019 alone, the devices detected seven major eruptions, with an interval of between three and eight days. According to the data collected, the cracks and underground channels at the origin of the Steamboat Geyser are sinking up to 140 m deep!


However, there is still a lot to learn

Scientists recall that this is a great first. Indeed, never an image of the underground structure of a geyser more than one hundred meters deep had been obtained. Before that, the structure of Old Faithful, also in Yellowstone Park, held the palm with eighty yards. The latter generates jets of more than fifty meters high, but is however much more active than the Steamboat Geyser with an eruption every ninety minutes. The researchers explain, however, that they do not know why some geysers are very active and others much less. Their hypothesis is that the underground structure controls the characteristics of the rash you geyser.

During previous eruptions of the Steamboat Geyser, the Cistern Spring thermal pool nearby had fallen in level. The researchers at the time had therefore thought that the two structures were interconnected. This recent study shows, however, that there is actually no direct connection. However, this does not mean that the two structures are completely separate. Small fractures (or pores) in the rock can cause the basin to drop in level during geyser eruptions.

Despite these advances, it is still too early to know if researchers will one day be able to unravel all the mysteries of this geyser. The ultimate goal is predict eruptions, but it seems that there is still a long way to go.


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