Ground Penetrating Radar Study at Old Faithful Geyser

From April 9 to 13, 2015, scientists will be using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to map what lies below the ground around Old Faithful Geyser. With a technique that's similar to using ultrasound on a human body, the research will study shallow subsurface structures like the thickness of the hot spring deposits, fractures, vents and cavities.

The purpose of this study is to learn more about Old Faithful Geyser and improve protection of the natural processes associated with the geyser. This GPR study is a direct result of the 2014 United States Geological Survey report "Hydrogeology of the Old Faithful Area, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, and its Relevance to Natural Resources and Infrastructure" ( The panel responsible for this report specifically mentioned the use of GPR as a technique that should be investigated for imaging shallow stratigraphy and structure in the Old Faithful area.

How It's Done

GPR is a non-invasive technique that does not require any drilling or excavation. An antenna is either carried in a cart, pushed on a wheeled unit or sledded over the ground surface to acquire the subsurface information. The best data acquisition occurs when the GPR unit is sledded on the ground. However, if sledding results in damage to the siliceous sinter around Old Faithful, the GPR unit will be moved using a cart.


You will notice that the scientific team travels off-boardwalk. All scientific team members are wearing special protective clothing. Every member of the scientific team has extensive experience working in hydrothermal areas near geysers. Drs. Heasler and Jaworowski have experience specifically with Old Faithful Geyser and the Upper Geyser Basin. Each day begins with a safety briefing. During the briefing, the tasks for that specific day will be reviewed and any hazards associated with the proposed work will be discussed.

What We'll Learn

The visualisations gained from this project will be used to create a diagram of the shallow subsurface in the Old Faithful mound and Split Cone areas for the general public. Images gathered during this study may be used in an upcoming National Geographic magazine article on Yellowstone National Park. Scientific, peer-review articles will be written discussing the technique and results including the location and depth of subsurface cavities and vents, their orientation, dimensions and connectivity, the depth of any local groundwater, and the vertical and lateral extent of any imaged shallow steam zones.

Who's Involved

Dr. Bridget Lynne, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Mr. Gary Smith, Geothermal Scientific Investigations Ltd, New Zealand
Mr. Isaac Smith, Geothermal Scientific Investigations Ltd, New Zealand
Dr. Duncan Foley, Pacific Lutheran University
Dr. Henry Heasler, Yellowstone National Park, National Park Service
Dr. Cheryl Jaworowski, Yellowstone National Park, National Park Service


More Information

Last updated: August 21, 2017

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