• An aerial view of Old Faithful erupting taken from Observation Point with the Old Faithful Inn to the side.

    Yellowstone

    National Park ID,MT,WY

How Geysers Work

Animated GIF showing how geysers work
 

For geyser to occur there must be heat, water, and a plumbing system. A magma chamber provides the heat, which radiates into surrounding rock. Water from rain and snow works its way underground through fractures in the rock.

As the water reaches hot rock it begins to rise back to the surface, passing through rhyolite, which is former volcanic ash or lava rich in silica. The hot water dissolves the silica and carries it upward to line rock crevices. This forms a constriction that holds in the mounting pressure, creating a geyser's plumbing system.

As superheated water nears the surface, its pressure drops, and the water flashes into steam as a geyser. Hot springs have unconstricted plumbing systems.

Did You Know?

Yellowstone Wolf.

There were no wolves in Yellowstone in 1994. The wolves that were reintroduced in 1995 and 1996 thrived and there are now over 300 of their descendents living in the Greater Yellowstone Area.