YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK (CBSDFW.COM/CBS LOCAL) — A historically dormant geyser in Yellowstone National Park has been anything but dormant recently — and visitors can’t get enough of the water show. It has also sparked conversation about whether a super-eruption could soon be expected in the region.
Steamboat Geyser is now the world’s largest active geyser. It has erupted ten times in three months, but it wasn’t always so exciting.
Before this year– Steamboat erupted ten times in nearly thirty years. According to officials, the activity is spurred on by a large magma field sitting just below the park.
“There’s been a lot of hype about the Supervolcano of Yellowstone and the potential for a super eruption,” said Wendy Stovall of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). “There’s no evidence that we see from all of the monitoring equipment that we have that there would be a super eruption anytime soon.”
Lava from a major eruption could cover multiple states with ash clouds stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles but the super volcano hasn’t erupted in 70,000 years so for now officials say visitors can focus on what the park really offers — a chance to see something spectacular.
There doesn’t seem to be a direct relationship with these eruptions and the supervolcano, Michael Poland, the USGS scientist-in-charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, wrote in an email to CNN. “The geysering is reflecting processes that are occurring in the shallowest part of the system — tens to perhaps a few hundreds of meters deep, whereas the magmatic system starts about 5 km down,” Poland wrote. “Geysers are supposed to erupt, and so what we’re seeing is normal behavior.”
According to CNN the Steamboat geyser is in an area of the park called the Norris Geyser Basin, known to be the hottest and most changeable thermal area in Yellowstone.
“Major eruptions over the past several weeks have been occurring with surprising regularity (every six to eight days), and the nine eruptions in 2018 ended a period of quiet that lasted 3.5 years,” the USGS said in a statement.
Before March 15, the last time this geyser spewed was in September 2014.
“Most of the 2018 eruptions occurred at night or during times when the area was closed to visitors,” the statement continued. “On June 4, however, the geyser put on a show starting at about 9 a.m. And USGS scientists were on site to witness the spectacle.”
There are phases to an eruption of the geyser.
“The eruption began with what is called the water-phase,” said the USGS. “On this particular day, the water-phase lasted for around 30 minutes. Hot, silica-rich water erupted to heights beyond 200 feet.”
Scientists said the “roar” was just as impressive as the visual spectacle. “Every once in a while, rocks (some baseball sized) were ejected with the water to astonishing heights,” the statement continued.
“After 30 minutes, Steamboat entered into what is called the steam-phase,” said officials. “Here, the eruption is dominated by the high-speed ejection of steam with a sound that reminds one of a jet engine. This phase can last for hours to days.”