What Is A Geyser?

Castle Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.

Geysers are hydrodynamically and thermodynamically unstable hot springs. Another common definition is that a geyser is a vent through which the earth ejects steams or water periodically. These natural features are rare and countable throughout the globe because of the rare conditions necessary for their occurrence. Today, geysers are of great economic values to areas they occur. Human utilization of geysers has contributed to a reduction of these features and have also lead to blockage of the earth’s natural plumbing process. These activities include throwing trash and debris into geysers. Geysers are not only unique to earth, several other planets, moons, and other solar system bodies have indications of their existence as well. These bodies include Saturn's moon Enceladus and Neptune's moon Triton.

5. Description

Geysers are geological features that erupt steam or liquid water that has a boiling temperature. They normally occur in areas with volcanic activities underneath the earth’s surface. Geysers eruptions are either small or big. Small ones have narrower fissures and the water or steam do not come out at high pressure. Big ones may have a bigger diameter on the surface and produce a large volume of water or may result in higher eruptions. In addition, there are cold geysers which have a mixture of carbon dioxide gas and liquid water. Geysers, though last for long, are normally temporary. In areas where the harvest of geothermal occurs, geysers normally lose their pressure and stop.

4. Location

Chile, Iceland, New Zealand, Russia, and the US have the world’s most active and massive geysers. Geysers in these countries occur within areas that have active volcanism or recent volcanic activities. In these countries, places with active geysers are Yellowstone National Park (US), Dolina Geiserov (Russia), El Tatio (Chile), Taupo Volcanic Zone (New Zealand), and several locations in Iceland. In the US, the most notable geysers include Mickey Hot springs in Oregon, Umnak and Kanaga islands in Alaska, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Long Valley Caldera, Hot Creek and Little Hot Creek, Morgan Springs, and Salton Sea (extinct) in California as well as Black Rock Desert, Great Boiling Springs, and Steamboat Springs in Nevada.

3. Formation

Geysers require rare combinations of geological conditions to form. The Yellowstone National Park in the US has most of these conditions which explains the large number of geysers within the park. These conditions include hot rocks below the surface, an underground water reservoir, an unlimited underground water source that feeds the surface, and fissures through which the water comes out under pressure.

2. Production

The water reservoir comes to contact with the hot rocks underneath the earth’s surface. This heat normally comes from hot magma which is close to the earth’s surface. Water then evaporates creating steam under a high pressure. When the pressure of the steam exceeds the strength of the fissures, the steam forcefully ejects through the fissures and cracks that lead up to the surface. The height of the hot steam depends on the pressure beneath the surface. In rare occasions, hot water, instead of steam may come out as well. Eruptions of geysers are normally not regular or frequent, however, the Old Faithful in the Yellowstone National Park had almost regular eruptions at intervals of one hour or ninety minutes.

1. Uses

People nowadays have commercialized geysers. One of the most common uses of this feature is the generation of clean geothermal electricity for domestic and commercial uses. This use is common in Iceland. Geysers are also a tourist attraction which brings about local and international tourists. Another use is heating, Iceland directs hot waters form geysers and use it to heat homes, greenhouses, and for other agricultural uses. The final common use for geysers is for educational and scientific research. Studying geysers reveals more about the volcanic systems of a place and is key in preparing for future volcanic eruptions.


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