Geology In

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Steamboat Geyser Erupts for 8th Time Since March, and Scientists Arent Sure Why

Yellowstones Steamboat Geysers rare eruption

The Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupted for just the tenth time in the last five years this week, and while scientists work to figure out why, people are flocking to Yellowstone to get a look at the rare phenomenon.

This eruption, in particular, touched deep into that with just the unbridled glory and majesty and power and the eyes are filled with tears again, said John Warnock, a visitor from Colorado who witnessed the event.

Warnock posted up and patiently waited on the worlds largest geyser. We got out here at 5:30 on Sunday morning, spent the day until 7:00 and then we returned at 5:30 this morning, Warnock said. And boom, it took off.

Some visitors lose patience when Old Faithful doesnt start right on time. But Steamboat Geyser has a different story. Nobody knows when it will erupt.

When Warnock heard that the worlds largest geyser had erupted seven other times this year, he came to Yellowstone from Colorado with high hopes.

I had such high expectations but I missed the mark by a million miles. I am a satisfied person. My heart is full, my cup is overflowing, said Warnock.

At 9:00 a.m. on Monday, Steamboat Geyser started showing signs of life.

Both vents opened up. Water was going at least 300 feet, maybe higher, Warnock said.

It was a moment that Warnock says hell never forget.

It just is amazing and I feel so blessed that the Lord loves me an awful lot to see this, he said.

Heres what we do know: the Steamboat Geyser at Yellowstone National Park can go years without erupting. When it does erupt, it can discharge water nearly 300 feet in the air.

What we dont know, or at least what the U.S. Geological Survey wouldnt say for sure until recently, is why its erupted eight times this year. The most recent one happened on Monday.

Its been concerning for some because some scientists think Yellowstone is a supervolcano that will some day erupt. This has caused some to fear Steamboats eruptions may be connected to the suspected supervolcano.

But the USGS says fear not: Geysers are supposed to erupt, and most, like Steamboat, do so erratically. The USGS also says theres no unusual volcanic activity at Yellowstone at least, not right now

Steamboat Geyser Erupts for 8th Time Since March, and Scientists Arent Sure Why

Yellowstones Steamboat Geysers rare eruption The Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupted for just the tenth ti…

About 250 million years ago, a massive volcanic eruption flooded modern-day Siberia with lava, creating the Siberian Traps, giant plateaus made of multiple layers of lava. The eruption also released huge quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that rapidly altered the climate and triggered the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event that wiped out more than 90% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial species.

After the eruption, however, the Siberian Traps began drawing atmospheric carbon dioxide back into the crust through weathering and erosion. The Siberian Traps are the largest of several floods of basalt, called Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs), that have occurred during Earths history and that likely have played a role in regulating Earths climate.

In a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters, lead author Louis Johansson, along with Deep Carbon Observatory members Sabin Zahirovic and Dietmar Muller at the University of Sydneys School of Geosciences modelled the eruption of LIPs and their movement as a result of plate tectonics around the globe for the last 400 million years.

The researchers compared the timing of LIP eruption and weathering with estimates of atmospheric carbon dioxide to see if eruptions and weathering had a controlling effect. Through their analysis the researchers were able to pinpoint specific times when LIPs were instrumental in turning up or down Earths global thermostat.

These huge eruptions bring up an enormous amount of carbon dioxide and can change the climate and trigger major extinctions, said Zahirovic.

But Earth has inbuilt mechanisms to scrub out the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over geological timeframes.

LIPs can absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide because the basalt lavas are full of silicate-rich rocks that are especially vulnerable to weathering. When rain falls through a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere, it dissolves the gas and forms acid rain. The weak acid reacts with silicate minerals in the LIPs to make long-lived carbonate sediments. Warm, rainy environments speed up the erosion process, and so more erosion occurs when LIPs are in regions near the equator, which have high temperatures and receive the most rainfall.

Scientists have looked at the climate impacts of individual LIPs, but no one had considered the long-term, global impacts of LIPs, as they moved around Earth on shifting continents.

The researchers used GPlates, an open-source software tool that reconstructs the movement of tectonic plates through Earths history, developed by Mllers EarthByte group at the University of Sydney along with international collaborators. They took into account the timing of LIP eruptions and how many million years each LIP spent near the equator to estimate erosion. Then they compared the emission and absorption of carbon dioxide from LIPs to estimates of atmospheric carbon dioxide using proxy data from a previously published compilation.

To attain an unbiased comparison, the researchers performed a wavelet analysis, which is a statistical test that compares two sets of measurements over time to see if and when they are correlated.

This analysis eliminates arm waving and also tells us when a particular signal leads another signal, so it gives us an indication, perhaps, of causation, said Zahirovic.

When the researchers compared the estimated level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the eruption and erosion of LIPs, they were able to identify several associated jumps and dips in atmospheric carbon dioxide, showing that these basalt floods have played a role in modulating Earths temperature for millions of years.

What surprised me was that 200 million years ago, as Pangaea was breaking apart, and the Atlantic was opening up, the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province produced a huge amount of lava, said Zahirovic.

You can see that in the carbon dioxide proxy record, theres a huge increase of carbon dioxide [after the eruption], but then because the volcanic province spends a lot of time in the humid near-equatorial belt, it is followed by a rapid decrease in carbon dioxide.

The eruption and weathering of LIPs is only one aspect of Earths carbon cycle, and there are points when the influence of LIPs likely took a backseat to other geological processes. The researchers also note that their model omitted LIPs that erupted underwater, because these basalts tend to be recycled back into the mantle and thus are more difficult or impossible to reconstruct.

Next, the researchers are looking into other ways that plate tectonics influence the deep carbon cycle. What were trying to understand are the longer-term variations of climate and the carbon cycle, over geological time frames, said Zahirovic.

Currently they are compiling a global database of ophiolites, which are chunks of basaltic oceanic crust that get thrust up onto the continents during tectonic collisions. Like LIPs, ophiolites take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they weather, and similarly to LIPs also have a finger on the global thermostat.

The above story is based onMaterialsprovided byUniversity of Sydney.

Large Igneous Provinces Contribute to Ups and Downs in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

About 250 million years ago, a massive volcanic eruption flooded modern-day Siberia with lava, creating the Siberian Traps, giant plate…

Researchers at Washington State University and the University of Idaho have found a new way to estimate how fast magma is recharging beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano. While their findings offer no help in predicting if the volcano will erupt, they can now get a better understanding of a key factor — a pool of basalt magma recharging the system — in how it works.

It is the coal in the furnace thats heating things up, said Peter Larson, a professor in the Washington State University School of the Environment. Its heating up the boiler. The boiler is what explodes. This tells us what is heating the boiler.

Some 640,000 years have passed since the volcanos last major eruption. But it can be super, having produced one of the largest known blasts on Earth and spewing more than 2,000 times as much ash as Mount St. Helens did in 1980.

A major element in the volcanos power is the explosive, silica-rich rhyolite that breaks through the Earths crust during an eruption. Larson and his colleagues focused on the plume of basalt magma heating the rhyolite from below.

This gives us an idea of how much magma is recharging the volcano every year, said Larson, whose findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Geosphere.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, the researchers spiked several hot springs in Yellowstone National Park with deuterium, a stable hydrogen isotope. The researchers used the length of time needed for deuterium concentrations to return to background levels and the temperature of the hot springs to calculate the amount of water and heat flowing out of the springs. Using deuterium for estimating heat flow is safe for the environment and has no visual impact to distract from the park visitors experience.

The team found that previous studies underestimated the amount of water coursing through the springs and the amount of heat leaving the springs. The data also allowed the team to estimate the amount of magma entering the supervolcano from the mantle.

The study also has implications for geothermal energy, helping inform how heat is transported to the earths surface from molten rock.

The above story is based onMaterialsprovided byWashington State University.

Yellowstone Volcano Magma is Heating the Boiler – Experts Estimate Recharging Chamber

Researchers at Washington State University and the University of Idaho have found a new way to estimate how fast magma is recharging …

Both eruptions swallowed homes and reminded everyone how ferocious nature can be.

But there are huge differences between Guatemalas Fuego volcano eruption, which killed 33 people in just one day, and Hawaiis recent Kilauea eruption, which hasnt killed anyone but keeps slowly wreaking havoc one month later.

Heres why these eruptions are so different — and why they have drastically different death tolls:Lava vs. pyroclastic flowKilaueas primary mode of destruction is lava, but Fuego has unleashed pyroclastic flow — a nasty mix of ash, rock and volcanic gases that can be much more dangerous than lava.

In Guatemala, pyroclastic flow from Sundays eruption topped 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,000 degrees Celsius), CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said.

This eruption at Fuego was explosive, sending hot debris down the steep sides of the volcano to make the pyroclastic flows, said Erik W. Klemetti, associate professor of geosciences at Denison University.

Pyroclastic flows are not like lava. PFs are rapid avalanches of hot gas & rock ranging from ash-sized (like sand) to boulders, + anything they pick up (like trees & cars). PFs are devastating & deadly. Dr Janine Krippner (@janinekrippner)June 4, 2018

He said pyroclastic flows can tumble down a volcano at hundreds of kilometers per hour — way faster than what people and even cars could outrun.

By contrast, Kilauea produces lava (or sticky, molten rock) that typically creeps along at maybe hundreds of meters per hour — not nearly as fast as devastating pyroclastic flow.Different communitiesKilauea is within HawaiĘ»i Volcanoes National Park. Lava has destroyed dozens of homes and other structures in communities outside the park boundaries.

But the Fuego volcano erupted near densely populated areas.

Villages are right on the foothills of the mountain, Cabrera said. So they had no time (to escape).

That meant unsuspecting villagers — such as those in the community of El Rodeo — were suddenly overwhelmed by ash, lava fragments and gases speeding toward them at 435 mph (700 kph).Different long-term effectsIn both the Kilauea and Fuego areas, the land will be unusable for years, Klemetti said.

But Guatemala faces a special danger that Hawaii doesnt.

The bigger issue with pyroclastic flows is they can be turned into volcanic mudflows (lahars) when the loose debris mixes with rain/river waters, he said. That is the new danger at Fuego right now.

Why Is Guatemalas Volcanic Eruption So Much Deadlier Than Hawaiis?

Erupting Fuego volcano in Guatemala has killed at least 33 Both eruptions swallowed homes and reminded everyone how ferocious natu…