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Temporal variations of geyser water chemistry in the Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

December 13, 2012

Geysers are rare features that reflect a delicate balance between an abundant supply of water and heat and a unique geometry of fractures and porous rocks. Between April 2007 and September 2008, we sampled Old Faithful, Daisy, Grand, Oblong, and Aurum geysers in Yellowstone National Park's Upper Geyser Basin and characterized temporal variations in major element chemistry and water isotopes (δ18O, δD, 3H). We compare these temporal variations with temporal trends of Geyser Eruption Intervals (GEI). SiO2 concentrations and geothermometry indicate that the geysers are fed by waters ascending from a reservoir with temperatures of ∼190 to 210°C. The studied geysers display small and complex chemical and isotopic seasonal variations, and geysers with smaller volume display larger seasonal variations than geysers with larger volumes. Aurum and Oblong Geysers contain detectable tritium concentrations, suggesting that erupted water contains some modern meteoric water. We propose that seasonal GEI variations result from varying degrees of evaporation, meteoric water recharge, water table fluctuations, and possible hydraulic interaction with the adjacent Firehole River. We demonstrate that the concentrations of major dissolved species in Old Faithful Geyser have remained nearly constant since 1884 despite large changes in Old Faithful's eruption intervals, suggesting that no major changes have occurred in the hydrothermal system of the Upper Geyser Basin for >120 years. Our data set provides a baseline for monitoring future changes in geyser activity that might result from varying climate, earthquakes, and changes in heat flow from the underlying magmatic system.

Publication Year 2012
Title Temporal variations of geyser water chemistry in the Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA
DOI 10.1029/2012GC004388
Authors Shaul Hurwitz, Andrew G. Hunt, William C. Evans
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Index ID 70040393
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Branch of Regional Research-Western Region; Volcano Hazards Program