Journal Highlights

Old Faithful’s geological heart revealed

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Old Faithful is Yellowstone National Park’s most famous landmark. Millions of visitors come to the park every year to see the geyser erupt every 44-125 minutes. But despite Old Faithful’s fame, relatively little was known about the geologic anatomy of the structure and the fluid pathways that fuel the geyser below the surface. Until now.

University of Utah scientists have mapped the near-surface geology around Old Faithful, revealing the reservoir of heated water that feeds the geyser’s surface vent and how the ground shaking behaves in between eruptions. The map was made possible by a dense network of portable seismographs and by new seismic analysis techniques. The results are published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Doctoral student Sin-Mei Wu is the first author.

For Robert Smith, a long-time Yellowstone researcher and distinguished research professor of geology and geophysics, the study is the culmination of more than a decade of planning and comes as he celebrates his 60th year working in America’s first national park.

“Here’s the iconic geyser of Yellowstone,” Smith said. “It’s known around the world, but the complete geologic plumbing of Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin has not been mapped nor have we studied how the timing of eruptions is related to precursor ground tremors before eruptions.”…more

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