Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

Can CO (sub 2) trigger a thermal geyser eruption?

Bethany S. Ladd and M. Cathryn Ryan
Can CO (sub 2) trigger a thermal geyser eruption?
Geology (Boulder) (March 2016) 44 (4): 307-310


Geyser eruptions are produced by a complex and poorly understood set of subsurface processes and conditions. They typically have an abundant supply of water, relatively permeable and competent subsurface material, a conduit to the surface, a driving mechanism (commonly believed to be the initiation of gas lift pumping by steam formation in the conduit), and a trigger. Here we present time series of dissolved CO (sub 2) concentrations in near-surface discharge waters of a thermal geyser in Yellowstone National Park (northwestern United States) that vary systematically over several eruption cycles. Chemical geothermometry, combined with a temperature profile in a nearby well, suggests that the geyser water ascends from non-boiling conditions ( approximately 153-171 degrees C at a depth of 57-65 m). When the time series of near-surface measured CO (sub 2) concentrations are extrapolated to these subsurface conditions assuming dominantly adiabatic cooling, the additional gas pressure from dissolved CO (sub 2) is large enough to cause the total dissolved gas pressure to exceed bubbling pressure, inducing bubble formation. We postulate that CO (sub 2) is a necessary component to triggering eruptions in the geyser studied. Furthermore, unlike steam, CO (sub 2) bubbles do not completely re-condense during cooling in the geyser conduit, hence providing better sustenance for gas lift pumping than pure H (sub 2) O boiling.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 44
Serial Issue: 4
Title: Can CO (sub 2) trigger a thermal geyser eruption?
Affiliation: University of Calgary, Department of Geoscience, Calgary, AB, Canada
Pages: 307-310
Published: 20160307
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 33
Accession Number: 2016-033027
Categories: Hydrogeology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: GSA Data Repository item 2016092
Illustration Description: illus. incl. sketch map
N44°10'00" - N45°00'00", W111°04'60" - W109°49'60"
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201616
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal