One of Yellowstone National Park’s Most Famous Geysers Appears to Be Going Quiet

by Jon D. B.
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Is the tallest active geyser in the world, located famously in Yellowstone National Park, going dormant? Yellowstone Volcano Observatory’s Scientist-in-Charge, Michael Poland, says it’s all about the numbers.

Every month, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) puts out an update through their overarching U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) offering updates on the park’s geological happenings. These can range from earthquakes to geysers to eruptions of the super volcano beneath Yellowstone – but let’s all hope that last one holds off for a few more millennia.

YVO’s latest monthly report points to a “typical” August on the earthquake side. In total, there were 290 earthquakes in the Yellowstone National Park region last month (which is typical).

But Yellowstone’s Steamboat Geyser presents a different story. Steamboat Geyser is the world’s tallest active geyser, with its major eruptions shooting water more than 300 feet (91 m) into the air. And for the entire month of August, Steamboat did not erupt a single time.

In fact, the last eruption took place on June 20, YVO’s Scientist-in-Charge, Michael Poland, says in his full report. For all of 2022, in fact, there have “only” been “8 major water eruptions of the geyser,” he cites.

Steamboat Geyser, Back Basin of the Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2018. (Photo by: Jon G. Fuller, Jr./VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“We had 32 eruptions in 2018, 48 each in 2019 and 2020, and then ‘just’ 20 in 2021, and so far in 2022 we’ve had ‘only’ eight. I use the quotes because in just about any other year, those numbers would be awesome! But we’ve been spoiled for the past few years by the show that the geyser has been putting on,” Poland continues for Newsweek following his Sept. 1 report.

So the word is: “It certainly seems as though Steamboat’s activity is waning,” he states.

Yellowstone National Park’s Steamboat Geyser has Entered a ‘Unique’ Phase

But even if Steamboat is quieting down, this activity is part of a larger pattern. At the moment, Poland says Steamboat is in the “downwards trend” of that pattern.

Steamboat geyser in Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA. (Photo by: Nano Calvo/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“The geyser is having lots of minor activity, and that is typically a prelude to a major eruption,” he explains. “That said, we’ve had well over a month of minor activity now, which we haven’t seen during the current cycle of frequent eruptions. Whether or not Steamboat experiences another major [eruption], the activity certainly does seem to be on the decline.”

All in all, it sounds like Steamboat Geyser does what Steamboat Geyser wants, and that’s all there is to it. The natural wonder and Yellowstone National Park staple may be going quiet, but could impress us all with a 300-foot spout of boiling water at any moment.

No matter what happens, however, Mike Poland says Steamboat “certainly put on an amazing show for us for the past several years!”

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