Reading about the mud volcano that started to erupt after the earthquake got me thinking about geysers again- of course, it doesn't take much to get me thinking about geysers. What I though about this time is how much geysers change.
Old Faithful is probably the most well-known geyser in the world. There are some good reasons for this. First, you can drive to it easily. You hardly have to walk at all to see it. You can sleep in a lodge right next to it. It is quite predictable. It is large. It even has a web cam- and it's erupting right now (at least it was when I was writing this). One other important thing about Old Faithful is that Yellowstone has been protected from use as a geothermal reserve.
Old Faithful has been erupting quite predictably since at least 1870. For a large geyser, that is a long time without much change. Other large geysers- both in Yellowstone and around the world- have seen major changes in their eruptions.
New Zealand can claim to have had the largest known eruptions. Waimangu started to erupt in 1900, presumably because of a large volcanic eruption in 1888. The eruptions were over 1000 feet high (as a comparison, 300 feet is about the tallest you might see today, if you are very lucky). The geyser was buried by a landslide only four years later.
Excelsior Geyser in Yellowstone was another big geyser. In the 1880s, it had eruptions that were 300 feet high and wide. It is assumed that the violent eruptions blew out the geyser's "plumbing system," resulting in the loss of thermal energy. It last erupted for two days in 1985, but the eruptions were less than 100 feet. You can still visit Excelsior; it's a thermal spring now. It's exciting to look at it and imagine the entire pool erupting.
Other geysers in Yellowstone went through major changes after the earthquake (which created Earthquake Lake just outside Yellowstone) in 1959. For example, Clepsydra Geyser was name for its regularity "like the ancient Greek water clock." However, after the earthquake, Clepsydra began erupting almost constantly- ruining any meaning in its name.
That earthquake changed, for a least a few days, if not longer, many of the geysers and hot springs in Yellowstone. Ear Spring, a small pool in the Upper Geyser Basin, had a minor eruption and discharged a lot of water. Avoca Spring in Biscuit Geyser Basin started to erupt in 1959 and still does. Castle Geyser, one of the well-known geysers of Yellowstone, starting erupting regularly in 1959.
There are so many examples of the way geysers change. A smaller earthquake in 1985 also affected Yellowstone. Some geysers start and stop erupting for no known reason. When we were at Yellowstone in October waiting for Great Fountain to erupt, some "geyser gazers" were waiting with us, and they pointed out a new steam vent that had appeared nearby earlier in 2004. This change is what makes Yellowstone so exciting to me.
I think there's another post in me about geysers, but I'll save it for tomorrow. :)