Yellowstone: Expert on ‘major eruptions’ at Steamboat Geyser
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Across the entirety of the Yellowstone National Park vista, Steamboat Geyser is among the park’s most breathtaking features. Fuelled by the Yellowstone Volcano hotspot, Steamboat holds the title for the world’s tallest presently active geyser. But this may have not been evident last month, according to the US Geological Survey’s (USGS’s) latest activity report.
According to the agency, the geyser did not erupt a single time last month.
This sudden lull in activity marks the first time since April 2018 that Steamboat has not erupted in a calendar month.
Located in Yellowstone’s Norris Geyser Basin, Steamboat erupted 128 times between March 2018 and the end of 2020.
And this year so far, the geyser has already erupted a total of 12 times.
Steamboat produces Yellowstone’s biggest hydrothermal blasts, though some of its other well-known features like Old Faithfull, erupt more regularly.
On average, Steamboat’s eruptions send jets of scalding water up to 380ft (116m) into the air.
And once the geyser starts erupting, the intervals can last anywhere between three days and 50 years.
Between 1985 and 2017, for instance, the geyser only erupted 15 times, so quiet months are not entirely unheard of.
In its monthly report for June, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) branch of the USGS shared some insight into what has been going on.
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The time between individual blasts has been on the rise, but it looks as though Steamboat still has a few eruptions under its sleeve.
The YVO report reads: “Over the past few months, the time between eruptions has been increasing, instead of decreasing as has been the case during the summers of 2018, 2019, and 2020.
“This may indicate that the present period of frequent eruption is coming to a gradual close, although current minor eruptions at the geyser suggest that the period of major eruptions is not yet completely over.”
June has been pretty intense for the US national park, with a total of 445 earthquakes recorded within the Yellowstone area.
The park typically experiences 100 to 200 quakes each month, so more than 400 is above the monthly average.
But in a historical context, it is not entirely unusual either.
In June 2017, for instance, Yellowstone experienced well over 1,100 earthquakes.
Many of these quakes arrived in the form of earthquake swarms.
About 50 percent of all tremors in Yellowstone arrive in swarms, so again, that is not entirely of the norm.
The first swarm of 153 quakes struck 11 miles northeast of West Yellowstone in Montana and lasted between June 19 and 28.
A second swarm of 153 quakes struck on June 9, with the most intense activity on June 21.
A third swarm was detected on June 29, when 52 earthquakes struck about seven miles north-northeast of West Yellowstone.
A fourth and final swarm of 18 earthquakes was detected on June 22 some seven miles north of West Yellowstone.
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