Yellowstone Geysers Predict Volcanic Eruptions

New study finds intervals between eruptions influenced by underground factors

Old Faithful erupts every 91 minutes, like clockwork.     Photo: Getty Images

Yellowstone's Old Faithful has been known to be one of the most predictable geographical features on earth, erupting every 91 minutes, like clockwork. 

But a new study published by Dr. Shaul Hurwitz and his team of researchers in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth has found that the intervals between geyser eruptions depend on a delicate balance of underground factors. Some of these variables include heat, water supply, and interactions with surrounding thermal springs.

Scientists can use this analysis for more than just predicting hot springs. The findings might also help us predict when volcanoes will erupt.

Hurwitz and his team focused their analysis on possible correlations between the geysers' in-between eruptions (IBEs) and outside forces such as the weather, earth tides, and earthquakes. 

What they found: There is no link between weather and Old Faithful's IBEs, but Daisy Geyser's IBEs correlated with cold temperatures and high winds. In addition, Daisy's IBEs were significantly shortened following the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Alaska in 2002.

Scientists hope continued research in this field will allow them to accurately predict the formerly unpredictable eruptions of cone geysers and volcanoes, thereby helping us avoid things like this from happening.

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