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Yes, Steamboat Geyser Keeps Erupting. No, No One Knows Why

After several eruptions in June, Steamboat Geyser activity took a break for 21 days before erupting again in early July. In addition, there’s been more activity in dormant areas. Is there anything unusual happening in Yellowstone National Park?

Steamboat Geyser activity after a long dormancy period isn’t necessarily unusual: as long as humans have been tracking geyser activity, Steamboat Geyser activity has been inconsistent throughout the year. Long periods of dormancy have been punctuated by a series of eruptions, followed again by dormancy.

But Steamboat Geyser isn’t the only Yellowstone geyser showing new signs of life in 2018. Take, for example, the humble Bulger Geyser, located in the Upper Geyser Basin and frequently overlooked by Yellowstone visitors. It’s frequently active, sometimes up to 12 minutes. Next to it is a small cave-in, suitably named Bulger’s Hole. It first appeared in May 2011, but it’s been dormant since July 2012. Until June and July, that is, when it was reported that Bulgar’s Hole was showing new signs of life. Now, this doesn’t mean activity across the Yellowstone thermals is up–for example, the Sawmill Group and the West Thumb group has been relatively quiet–but it does auger change among the geysers.

So what’s happening?

So far there’s no theory as to why Steamboat and Bulger’s Hole are active while the Sawmill Group and the West Thumb group are quieter than in recent years. Nor, to be honest, do we expect any theory to emerge. If there’s one truism about Yellowstone geysers, it’s that in this era of advanced technology taking over the world, the specifics of the Yellowstone plumbing system are still a mystery to humans. Yes, we know when specific activities in one geyser are related to the activities of another geyser, but in terms of a big-picture view of Yellowstone geysers…we don’t have one. Heck, we’re still figuring out exactly the parameters of the Yellowstone caldera, never mind how it affect specific spots in the Park. So as we move forward during a particularly fascinating period in Park history–especially if you’re a science nerd–enjoy the activity, and don’t worry too much about any specific geyser indication foreshadowing some future, larger event.

About Kevin Reichard

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