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Yellowstone's Old Faithful Geyser shut down by a severe 13th century drought

October 7, 2020

To characterize eruption activity of the iconic Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park over past centuries, we obtained 41 new radiocarbon dates of mineralized wood preserved in the mound of silica that precipitated from erupted waters. Trees do not grow on active geyser mounds, implying that trees grew on the Old Faithful Geyser mound during a protracted period of eruption quiescence. Rooted stumps and root crowns located on higher parts of the mound are evidence that at the time of tree growth, the geyser mound closely resembled its current appearance. The range of calibrated radiocarbon dates (1233–1362 CE) is coincident with a series of severe multidecadal regional droughts toward the end of the Medieval Climate Anomaly, prior to the onset of the Little Ice Age. Climate models project increasingly severe droughts by mid‐21st century, suggesting that geyser eruptions could become less frequent or completely cease.

Publication Year 2020
Title Yellowstone's Old Faithful Geyser shut down by a severe 13th century drought
DOI 10.1029/2020GL089871
Authors Shaul Hurwitz, John King, Gregory T. Pederson, Justin Martin, David Damby, Michael Manga, Jefferson Hungerford, Sara Peek
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geophysical Research Letters
Index ID 70215540
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center