Yellowstone's Steamboat Geyser Is Incredibly Active Right Now, and We Don't Know Why

A USGS image shows steam rising from Steamboat Geyser after an earlier eruption.
A USGS image shows steam rising from Steamboat Geyser after an earlier eruption. (Image credit: USGS)

Yellowstone National Park's Steamboat Geyser blasted steam and water into the air at 12:52 p.m. local time on June 12. Then, three days, 3 hours and 48 minutes later — at 4:40 p.m. on June 15 — it blasted steam and water into the air again, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS)'s Volcano Hazards Program. That's a new record for the geyser, according to the Billings Gazette: the shortest time ever recorded between eruptions.

But don't worry. Increased activity at a single geyser doesn't indicate any new threat from the Yellowstone caldera — the "supervolcano" hiding under the park — according to USGS.

"Geysers are supposed to erupt, and most are erratic, like Steamboat," the agency wrote. [Infographic: Yellowstone Geology, Geysers, and Volcano]

Additionally, records of Steamboat's eruptions go back only to 1982, the Billings Gazette noted. Yellowstone's history is much older than that.

The newspaper also reported that the eruptions were especially dramatic, large and loud, with one ejecting a rock that shattered a wooden post. Researchers don't have good, tested theories to explain why geysers like one this slip in and out of active periods, according to the Gazette.

Mostly, the eruptions suggest that now is a particularly good time to go see Steamboat Geyser blow its lid. The geyser set a record for total number of eruptions in 2018, with 32 in the calendar year, according to USGS. Already in 2019 there have been 24 eruptions, six of them in June as of this writing.

Originally published on Live Science.

Rafi Letzter
Staff Writer
Rafi joined Live Science in 2017. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of journalism. You can find his past science reporting at Inverse, Business Insider and Popular Science, and his past photojournalism on the Flash90 wire service and in the pages of The Courier Post of southern New Jersey.