Geysers: Nature’s Vents


The unusual geological phenomena known as geysers are incredible natural fountains that shoot boiling water and steam hundreds of meters into the sky in violent eruptions. Geyser eruptions are related to the availability of geothermal activity and particular hydrogeological conditions; hot rocks, a source of groundwater, a subsurface water reservoir, and fissures to deliver water to the surface. According to researchers, geysers need much more heat than what is normally found near the Earth’s surface; that is why all geyser sites are located near volcanic areas.

Geysers are channels filled with water that run deep into the crust under the Earth’s surface; molten rock called magma found near the bottom of the channel heats the water in the channel. The water gradually boils, until some of the water is forced upward due to pressure; some eruptions last only a few minutes, while some last for days. The eruption will continue until all the water is forced out of the geyser or until the temperature inside the geyser drops.

Geysers are rare; most of the world’s active geysers occur in just five countries: Chile, Iceland, New Zealand, Russia, and United States of America. The premiere place to see geysers is Yellowstone National Park in USA, home to more than half of all the geysers on Earth. Even though geysers erupt irregularly and infrequently, some erupt on regular basis; the most famous one, located in Yellowstone National Park and named “Old Faithful”, erupts every about 60–90 minutes. Water ejected from this geyser can reach 30–55 meters high in the air; however, recent researches suggest that drought conditions in the Yellowstone area have lengthened the time interval between the eruptions of the Old Faithful geyser.

At Yellowstone National Park, you can also find the tallest active geyser in the world “Steamboat geyser”; some of its eruptions eject water as high as 120 meters in the air. Unfortunately, if you visit Yellowstone Park, you may not be able to see it erupt as it has erupted fewer than ten times in the past twenty years. The highest geyser eruption of all time occurred at Waimangu Valley in New Zealand; in 1902, it shot water up to 450 meters in the air; however, it became inactive after a landslide in 1904.

Many factors such as landslides, earthquakes, and droughts can change a geyser’s eruption or destroy the geyser itself. People also contribute to destroying geysers by throwing trash and debris into a geyser’s opening, which lead to blocking it. Geysers could be a good source of geothermal energy that can be used to generate electricity for houses and buildings; nevertheless, trying to make use of this energy may lead to draining the geysers of their water.

As nature’s natural vents, geysers are another fascinating feature of Earth’s impeccable mechanisms that never cease to amaze us. Like all other natural features of Earth, we need to be more careful while dealing with them; they can be a most powerful resource, yet they can pose great danger, not just because of their eruptive nature, but trying to block them could be even more dangerous.



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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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