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Geysers are volcanic hot springs that periodically emit spurts of pressurized hot water and water vapor. Geysers are the result of unique hydrogeological conditions where ground water interacts with volcanic activity. This makes geysers rare and only found in certain regions and locations around the world. Geysers give great insight into the way volcanic activity can effect the surrounding environment.
So what makes a geyser tick? In order for a geyser to exist you need a volcano or at least volcanic activity. Volcanoes are the result of openings in the Earth’s crust that occur by thinning or plate tectonics. The result is that a portion of the crust is melted and transformed into magma. The other unique condition needed is ground water. A volcano would need to occur near an area with a relatively shallow water table, but one that is deep enough to come in contact the heated magma and surround rock as it rises to the surface. The result combined with the geometry of the vent is a natural pressure cooker. The combination of the boiling point temperatures provided by the magma combined with the confined space of cavities in the water table create the pressure needed.
Because of their rare locations the places that do have geysers are pretty well known. One of the most famous geysers in the world is Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. The Geyser is famous for its regularity. It erupts regularly at intervals, however the time has slowly extended due to earthquakes in the area. Old Faithful is in a separate system from other geysers in the area, however all of them are powered by the massive caldera in Yellowstone.
Geysers are the result of natural sources of water in the land interacting with volcanic activity. They show the effect of volcanic activity on a surrounding area. Geysers are one of the most visually spectacular examples of volcanic activity you can find in nature.
We have written many articles about geysers for Universe Today. Here’s an article about deep sea vents, and here’s an article about the Tacana Volcano.