Workings of a Geyser

The Old Faithful Geyser of California is one of three geysers in the world with the designation “old faithful.” These are the geysers that perform at regular intervals. A geyser exists only where conditions are right. These conditions include a natural deep subterranean supply of water, a source of heat and a series of fissures, fractures and cavities that provide a path to the surface of the earth. Surrounding rock formations must be strong enough to maintain continual onslaughts of the intense pressure of steam and water explosions.

Water for the Old Faithful Geyser of California comes from an underground river. When this water flows over the hot molten magma deep in the earth, it boils and expands and is collected in large cavities. Under tremendous pressure from the heat, and assisted by a constriction of the passage upward, the superheated water is forced through the fissures and fractures and erupts with an outpouring of steam followed by a fulmination of hot dancing water.

Under normal conditions, the water, the heat and the underground structure all remain constant and for this reason Old Faithful erupts regularly. Conditions which cause deviations from the normal pattern seem to relate to earthquakes. The Old Faithful Geyser of California is proving itself a predictor of quakes.

From two days to two weeks prior to an earthquake, the Old Faithful Geyser of California gives warning by delaying its regular performance from the average thirty minutes to a longer interval. During this prolonged interval, it may send up “splits,” small eruptions to no more than two or three feet in height, every few minutes. Finally, after the long delay, a 60-foot column of water and steam shoots upward.

The Geyser will return to its normal pattern unless interrupted by further tectonic stresses. Several scientists have studied the Geyser and one scientist has set up an infrared heat detector nearby. When the Geyser erupts, the detector is activated and information is relayed into an office where a taped printout automatically records all the eruptions day and night. The scientists then can use such information to determine whether or not Old Faithful’s digressions from normal behavior correlate with the advent of an earthquake, and records are kept for future comparisons. The earthquake activity is not located at the Geyser, but within 500 miles or more from the area.

A scientific study sponsored by the Carnegie Institution of Washington DC, is being conducted in order to document the possible correlation between the Geyser eruptions and earthquake activity.