Yellowstone Geyser Erupts Three Times in Last Six Weeks after Years of Inactivity

Steven Agar |
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Steamboat Geyser, Yellowstone National Park. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/NPS

The world’s largest active geyser, Steamboat in Yellowstone National Park, which can spew streams of boiling water over 300 feet into the air, has erupted three times in the last six weeks after years of inactivity, reports Smithsonian.

Steamboat’s eruptions are super erratic, and no one can predict when it’s going to be active. But three and a half years since its last major outburst, Steamboat has erupted on March 15, April 19 and April 27, the first time it’s blown its lid three times in a year since 2003.
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Old Faithful geyser doing its thing on a starry night in the park.

As Sean Reichard at Yellowstone Insider reports, seismic data from the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory suggests the latest eruptions were pretty impressive. For one, the April 27 event shot up more than 10 times as much water as the average Old Faithful event. But still, they pale in comparison to Steamboat’s previous eruptions in July 2013 and September 2014.

So, does the reawakening of Steamboat mean the Yellowstone Volcano will soon rumble to life after 70,000 years of slumber? The possibility is extremely remote. The latest eruptions are just business as usual for Steamboat, which goes through cycles of dormancy and activity. As Reichard reports, since European explorers discovered Yellowstone’s geyser basins in 1878, Steamboat has been temperamental. In the 50 years between 1911 and 1961, it didn’t spout at all.


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Yellowstone National Park. Credit: 

Then, the geyser blew its top at least seven times in 1962 and 77 times between 1963 and 1965. It had another burst of energy in 1982 and 1983, going off 35 times total. Since then, it’s had smaller outbursts, including the three-peat in 2003 and similar eruption pattern this year.

One thing is clear, the changes at Steamboat are not signs that the Yellowstone Supervolcano is waking up. The chances of Yellowstone erupting anytime soon are minuscule. In fact, it would be far more worrying if the geysers suddenly dried up.

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