Hot spring, anyone?
Hot water from underground can pool at hot springs. 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.
When hot water gently rises to the surface, it creates a hot spring. A hot spring forms where a crack in the Earth allows water to reach the surface after being heated underground. Many hot springs are used by people and animals as natural hot tubs (Figure below). Some people believe that hot springs can cure illnesses. Hot springs are found all over the world, even in Antarctica!
Even in winter, the water in this hot spring in Yellowstone doesn't freeze. Bison move near hot springs to escape the extreme cold.
Geysers are also created by water that is heated beneath the Earth’s surface. The water may become superheated by magma. It becomes trapped in a narrow passageway. The heat and pressure build as more water is added. When the pressure is too much, the superheated water bursts out onto the surface. This is a geyser.
There are only a few areas in the world where the conditions are right for the formation of geysers. Only about 1,000 geysers exist worldwide. About half of them are in the United States. The most famous geyser is Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. The geyser erupts every 60 to 70 minutes, shooting hot water nearly 60 meters in the air. It is rare for a geyser to erupt so regularly, which is why Old Faithful is famous. Castle Geyser (Figure below) is another geyser at Yellowstone Park; however, it does not erupt as frequently or predictably as Old Faithful.
Castle Geyser is one of the many geysers at Yellowstone National Park. Castle erupts regularly, but not as frequently or predictably as Old Faithful.
The Old Faithful web cam shows periodic eruptions of Yellowstone’s famous geyser in real time: http://www.nps.gov/features/yell/live/live4.htm
geyser: Fountain of hot water and steam that erupts onto the surface.
hot spring: Stream of hot water that flows out of the ground continuously.
- When magma heats groundwater, it may come to the surface as a hot spring or a geyser.
- Geysers erupt because the water is trapped. The water becomes superheated until finally the pressure builds enough for it to break the seal.
- Yellowstone is famous for its geysers. Old Faithful erupts the most regularly.
Use the resources below to answer the questions that follow.
- What is required for a geyser to erupt?
- What provides the heat?
- What supplies the water?
- How is a hot spring created?
- Explain how a fumarole occurs?
- How is a mud pot created?
- What creates a hot spring?
- Why do geysers erupt rather than just bubble to the surface like a hot spring?
- Are hot springs and geysers always found where there is active volcanism? What is the source of the heat?