Old Faithful is a geyser in Yellowstone National Park, named after its regularity in erupting hot water and steam, fed by the geothermal activity of the Yellowstone supervolcano underneath.
In the last several decades, scientists have observed that Old Faithful’s interval between eruptions has changed considerably, stretching from about 60-65 minutes in the 1950s to about 90-94 minutes since 2001.
A geyser’s eruption is feed by a complex, underground vent system filled with water. As the magma in the underground heats up the groundwater, steam pressure will build up until it is sufficient to trigger a steam eruption on the surface. According to the scientists, no major changes have occurred in the thermal state of Yellowstone, excluding this factor as an explanation for the delay in Old Faithful’s eruptions. Another possible factor controlling geyser activity
Yellowstone National Park’s famous Old Faithful geyser is famously reliable, firing a jet of scalding water and steam high into the air some 17 times a day at 60 to 110-minute intervals.
But new research suggests that 800 years ago a severe drought caused this geyser, which was once somewhat hyperbolically known as “Eternity’s Timepiece,” to stop erupting altogether for many decades, reports Colin Barras for Science. When taken with climate model predictions of increasingly severe droughts, the findings could mean that America’s most dependable geyser will erupt less often or stop completely in the future.
Researchers arrived at the new findings, published last week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, by studying 13 chunks of petrified wood found on Old Faithful’s mound. Trees can’t survive the geyser’s blasts of super-heated, alkaline water, so finding trees growing on Old Faithful’s mound is a sign that its regularly scheduled