Old Faithful, the giant geyser in Yellowstone National Park has wowed spectators with its amazing regularity. The park is home to around 4,500 bison, more than 700 bears, and 500 geysers. These water spurting miracles are in the Upper Geyser Basin of the park, including the ‘Old Faithful’.
Its regularity earned it the endearing nickname. Old Faithful gets more attention than any other geothermal eruption in the world. The geyser spouts around 17 times each day and has been visited by people around the world.
Old Faithful Is Slowing Down
But there seems to be a subtle change as the timings of Old Faithful have been changing over the past 5 decades. The average time between each eruption has gotten longer.
Geysers need three conditions to erupt, a continuous heat source, an abundance of water supply from underground, and the porous medium that allows large volumes of water to flow rapidly.
Yellowstone National Park is located on a couple of magma chambers, with one between 3 miles to 10 miles long. Water gets heated in the underground reservoirs, with a fair amount of water getting superheated, its temperatures way above the normal boiling point of water.
The highly pressurized water gets pushed out through vents in the ground, setting off a stream of steam and hot water at regular intervals.
Temperatures can reach between 204F to 350F as the steam gets extremely hot. Eruptions are divided into short and long. While the short eruption ends in under 2.5 minutes, there is an interval of 65 minutes before it sprouts again. for the larger spouts, the geyser takes a break of around 90 to 92 minutes.
But the rising temperatures increased rain, and less snowfall has threatened to affect the eruption of Old Faithful. Yellowstone faces a threat that it cannot protect itself against, rising global temperatures. It is home to 500 geysers and 10,000 hydrothermal features. Even a rise of 10F will affect the geysers and Old Faithful may get silenced forever.
Old Faithful has silenced centuries ago due to an extreme spike in temperature that caused prolonged periods of drought. There is a strong possibility that we are close to similar situations that could cause Old Faithful to fall silent once again.