So far the 2018 summer season has been a great time if you’re a Yellowstone geyser fanatic: Steamboat Geyser has been providing thrills in a more active stage, but there is plenty of other thermal activity to note this year.
First: yes, Steamboat Geyser is active and yes, it does appear to be on a schedule, erupting every 6-8 days. There was a ninth eruption at 1:06 a.m. yesterday (June 11), just under seven days from the previous June 4 eruption. For decades Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin has been one of the most unpredictable geysers in Yellowstone, going dormant for long periods of time. The fact that we’re seeing regular eruptions in 2018 is pretty amazing, and if you’re heading to the Park in the next month, be sure to spend some time at Steamboat to see if you’re lucky enough to witness an eruption. After all, given Steamboat’s history, it could go dormant tomorrow. Based on a June 11 eruption, you could see another eruption on June 17-19.
Another geyser that has been relatively dormant in recent years, but showing signs of activity: Giant Geyser, which lives up to its name with eruptions that can go as high as 250 feet, erupted on the afternoon of June 9. Giant Geyser, located north of Old Faithful Geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin, can go years without erupting (as it did in 2011-2015), so activity there is certainly noteworthy.
Finally, one more interesting area of activity: Fan and Mortar Geysers, at the edge of the Firehole River in the Upper Geyser Basin. They were reported as erupting for the first time this season on June 6. Formerly two independent geysers, Fan and Mortar Geysers now act in unison and hard to miss, spewing plenty of water and steam in the area.
Even though this activity is unusual, scientists say that this shift in Steamboat Geyser’s activity — or the activity of any single geyser — does not mean the Yellowstone caldera (the pool of magma that feeds Yellowstone’s hot springs and geysers) is due to blow. But it should alter your strategies if you visit the Park: given that both the Upper Geyser Basin and the Norris Geyser Basin have thermal features more active than normal, you may want to allocate more time to these areas and be patient about waiting around for potential activity.
Steamboat has had an erratic eruption history. Notably, it went fifty years without an eruption, between 1911 and 1961. But, it has also had more active phases like the current one.