(Sheridan, Wyo) Although no one witnessed it, the world’s tallest geyser, capable of reaching heights over 300 feet, erupted at 5:30 in the morning on Thursday, March 15, 2018. A little over a month later, on April 19, the geyser erupted again. Ever since, most recently at 1:06 am this morning, it has erupted every 6 to 8 days.
Prior to March 15, Yellowstone’s Steamboat Geyser hadn’t erupted since 2014. That eruption was witnessed by a crowd. The National Park’s approximately 500 geysers are highly unpredictable, hence the popularity of “Old Faithful.”
For now, at least, Steamboat is remarkably predictable, although the majority of the 2018 eruptions have occurred at night or during times when the public isn’t allowed at the site.
University of Utah Seismograph Stations‘ Jamie Farrell, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory Chief Seismologist, was lucky to be one of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory scientists who was able to personally witness the June 4 eruption that began at 9:05 am. Farrell wrote about his experience in the Caldera Chronicles, a weekly article written by U.S. Geological Survey Yellowstone Volcano Observatory scientists and colleagues.
In response to the activity in March and April, Farrell and other scientists installed 28 seismic stations around the geyser in early May. These seismometers, known as nodals, are small, self-contained instruments that spike into the ground and can record ground movement in all three directions (vertical, north-south, and east-west) for about thirty days before their batteries run out.
“If there was one thing to remember about the Steamboat eruption, it was the noise,” Farrell wrote. “The ‘roar’ was just as impressive as the visual spectacle. Every once in a while, rocks (some baseball sized) were ejected with the water to astonishing heights.”
Next, Steamboat entered into the steam-phase. Farrell said the sound reminded him of a jet engine.
The eighth Steamboat eruption of 2018 will definitely be a memory that I will not soon forget—and it was witnessed by a large number of visitors (and also their vehicles, some of which were caked with silica-rich water ejected by the geyser!). It was refreshing to see so many people excited about this geologic feature. If you want to witness a major eruption of Steamboat yourself, it has been erupting every 6-8 days over the past several weeks. Do the math, and check it out for yourself! Maybe you’ll be as fortunate as I was and get to take home an exceptional memory of the tallest currently active geyser in the world in full eruption.
The news has been reported far and wide with, as is often the case with Yellowstone, a sensational tone. Those of us who live here know that Yellowstone will never be done changing before our very eyes.
The 2018 eruptions so far:
- March 15, 5:37 AM
- April 19, 4:30 PM
- April 27, 6:30 AM
- May 4, 11:50 PM
- May 13, 3:54 AM
- May 19, 9:49 PM
- May 27, 7:33 PM
- June 4, 9:05 AM
- June 11, 1:06 AM
If you are interested in keeping an eye on the geyser through remote sensors including a seismograph, stream gage, and thermometer, click here.