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Old Faithful's Plumbing Studied to See What Makes Geyser Tick

Image: Old Faithful's Plumbing Studied to See What Makes Geyser Tick

Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park. (Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Tuesday, 08 Nov 2016 08:07 AM

Old Faithful's plumbing is being studied at Yellowstone National Park to learn more about its subsurface groundwater flow system.

The geyser, discovered in 1870, erupts on average every 74 minutes, but can range from 60-110 minutes, said the Yellowstone National Park website.

The U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Wyoming and Aarhus University in Denmark started conducting electromagnetic and magnetic surveys of the area on Monday using a low-flying helicopter.

Researchers hope to separate zones of cold fresh water, hot saline water, steam, clay, and unaltered rock from each other to gain a better understanding of Yellowstone's hydrothermal systems.

The helicopter flights to be conducted over the next two to four weeks will use an electromagnetic system, resembling a giant hula hoop. The equipment senses and records tiny voltages related to the ground's electrical conductivity.

The Christian Science Monitor said the survey, called HEM, will act like an X-ray for hot water flow, with the ability to distinguish water from rock as deep as 1,500 feet below the surface.

"Nobody knows anything about the flow paths (of hot water)," said U.S. Geological Survey lead scientist Carol Finn said, per The Associated Press. "Does it travel down and back up? Does it travel laterally?"

Finn told The AP that researchers also are hoping to learn more about the irregular, but sometimes massive hydrothermal explosions that occur in the park. One of those explosions happened 13,800 years ago and left a crater that measures 1 1/2 miles across beneath at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake.

"The HEM survey, operated by SkyTEM, will provide the first subsurface view of Yellowstone's hydrothermal systems, tracking the geophysical signatures of geysers, hot springs, mud pots, steam vents and hydrothermal explosion craters to depths in excess of 1,000 feet," said the USGS.

"These observations, combined with existing geophysical, geochemical, geological, and borehole data, will help close a major knowledge gap between the surface hydrothermal systems and the deeper magmatic system."

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Old Faithful's plumbing is being studied at Yellowstone National Park to learn more about its subsurface groundwater flow system.
old faithful, geyser, plumbing, studied
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2016-07-08
Tuesday, 08 Nov 2016 08:07 AM
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