Experts are unable to offer a precise explanation as to why the Yellowstone Steamboat Geyser has erupted three times in the past six weeks, most recently on April 27.
Steamboat Geyser, known as the largest active geyser in the world, had two other explosions on March 15 and April 19.
Geologists could not pinpoint what exactly caused the bizarre activities except that geysers are naturally unpredictable. That said, the unexplained eruptions are also not indicative of any impending Yellowstone supervolcano eruption.
Steamboat Geyser Eruptions
It is very rare for Steamboat Geyser to have major eruptions but when they occur, they tend to be powerful.
A potent Steamboat geyser eruption could spit out hot water of up to 100 meters high. The after steam can last for the whole day and can get as high as 200 meters into the atmosphere. The water is composed of neutral to alkaline and is rich in chloride.
The U.S. Geological Survey's Yellowstone Volcano Observatory said the current eruptions were smaller than the explosions seen at the geyser in the past. The eruptions, however, disgorged water 10 times larger than the waters seen during eruptions of the Old Faithful Geyser.
Michael Poland, scientists in charge of the observatory, concluded that the strange eruptions that occurred on March 15, April 19, and Friday could indicate a thermal disturbance underneath the geyser's basin. It could also indicate a change in the geyser's activity, where it is now having smaller eruptions instead of one major explosion.
Poland explains that geysers, in general, are erratic by nature. This is also the reason why it is hard for scientists to designate seismic monitors and cameras in their locations. The eruption on Friday, in fact, was spotted and reported by a visitor at the Yellowstone National Park.
Since the 21st Century, scientists observed that Steamboat is becoming more active than how it normally behaved during the early 1980's. While there were no major eruptions between late 1991 and 2000, there were 10 significant eruptions since May 2000.
Poland highlights that the three consecutive eruptions were, in fact, a good sign. The real cause for worry would be when geysers become dormant.
Inactive geysers would mean that the waters which geysers should spit out are drying up. This could only mean that the magma beneath the Yellowstone is rising and already making its way to the surface.
Poland, therefore, dismissed a possibility of an erupting Yellowstone. While the supervolcano has always been attributed to the world-ending event, its explosion will not happen in this lifetime, the scientist says.