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6.30: Hot Springs and Geysers

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Hot spring, anyone?

Even some animals enjoy relaxing in nature's hot tubs. Care to join them?

Hot Springs and Geysers

Water sometimes comes into contact with hot rock. The water may emerge at the surface as either a hot spring or a geyser.

Hot Springs

Water heated below ground that rises through a crack to the surface creates a hot spring. The water in hot springs may reach temperatures in the hundreds of degrees Celsius beneath the surface, although most hot springs are much cooler.

Even in winter, the water in this hot spring in Yellowstone doesn't freeze.


Geysers are also created by water that is heated beneath the Earth’s surface, but geysers do not bubble to the surface — they erupt.

When water is both superheated by magma and flows through a narrow passageway underground, the environment is ideal for a geyser. The passageway traps the heated water underground, so that heat and pressure can build. Eventually, the pressure grows so great that the superheated water bursts out onto the surface to create a geyser. Figure below.

Conditions are right for the formation of geysers in only a few places on Earth. Of the roughly 1,000 geysers worldwide, about half are found in the United States.

Castle Geyser is one of the many geysers at Yellowstone National Park. Castle erupts regularly, but not as frequently or predictably as Old Faithful.


  • When magma heats groundwater it may come to the surface as a hot spring or a geyser.
  • Geysers erupt because the water is trapped and becomes superheated until finally the pressure builds enough for it to break the seal.
  • Yellowstone is famous for its geysers. Hot Creek in California is also above a supervolcano.


Use these resources to answer the questions that follow.


1. What is required for a geyser to occur?

2. What provides the heat?

3. What supplies the water?


4. How is a hot spring created?

5. Explain how a fumarole occurs?

6. How is a mud pot created?


1. What creates a hot spring?

2. Why do geysers erupt rather than just bubble to the surface like a hot spring?

3. Are hot springs and geysers always found where there is active volcanism? What is the source of the heat?

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geyser A fountain of hot water and steam that erupts onto the surface.
hot spring A stream of hot water that flows out of the ground continuously.

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Difficulty Level:
At Grade
Date Created:
Feb 24, 2012
Last Modified:
Aug 07, 2016
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