Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park has erupted for the sixth time this year, soundly breaking its previous hiatus of nearly four years.
Steamboat Geyser is the tallest active geyser in the world. It erupts on its own schedule, often taking visitors and scientists by surprise.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey Volcanoes division, the eruption started around 9:49 p.m. MST. Seismographs picked up activity. The agency also noted increased discharge around the Tantalus Creek gauge: a sure sign of increased activity. You can see the seismic chart below, courtesy of USGS Volcanoes.
According to the agency, the thick blue trace at the bottom of the chart is what indicates the Steamboat Geyser eruption.
Before 2018, Steamboat Geyser’s last major eruption occurred September 3, 2014. Steamboat Geyser roared back to life March 15, 2018, with subsequent eruptions on April 19, April 27, May 4, and May 13.
Researchers at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory hypothesize Steamboat Geyser may be entering a new phase of activity, with smaller, more frequent eruptions. Researchers noted, for instance, that the past few eruptions have been weaker than the September 2014 eruption.
Despite concerns, this shift in Steamboat Geyser’s activity does not mean the Yellowstone caldera (the pool of magma that feeds Yellowstone’s hot springs and geysers) is due to blow.
Indeed, Steamboat has always had an erratic eruption history. It has gone decades without erupting—most notably between 1911 and 1961—only to turn around and start erupting frequently.
Although this most recent eruption seems to point toward a new trend for Steamboat Geyser, only time will tell whether this streak will continue or not.