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Predicting Geysers


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  • Predicting Old Faithful
  • There is a direct relationship between the duration of Old Faithful’s eruption and the length of time before it erupts again. During a short eruption, less water and heat are used, so both are restored in a shorter time. During longer eruptions, the opposite happens—more water and heat are spent, which means more time is needed for these ingredients to rebuild.

    It is not possible to predict more than one eruption in advance with any accuracy. The time of the next eruption is predicted by using the duration of the current eruption. The eruption’s length is timed from when the water comes out and stays out of the geyser’s cone for at least five seconds until the last appearance of water at the eruption’s end. The longer the eruption lasts, the longer it will be until the next eruption.

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    This work is supported by

    National Science Foundation    Yellowstone Park Foundation

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