Yellowstone: Old Facebook, et al

Yellowstone is the world’s first national park and perhaps the only land in the USA that has never been fenced or farmed. It has mountains, clear rivers, deep lakes, four kinds of conifer forest, valley meadows, and is the world’s most active geothermal site. Wildlife abounds.

It’s the geothermal features that make this place famous. Those include geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and terraces. Fumaroles are openings in the earth’s crust emitting hot gases and/or liquids. Terraces result where underground minerals are deposited on the surface and over time build up as domes, hills, or plateaus. Yellowstone, which sits on an active mega-volcano, has them all.

Hot Spring Vapor Over Lake Yellowstone
Hot Spring Vapor Over Lake Yellowstone
Hot Springs at West Thumb
Hot Springs at West Thumb
Hot Spring with Extremophile Colors
Hot Spring with Extremophile Colors
A Chef Poached Fish Here in the 1920s
Fishing Hole (A Chef Poached Fish Here in the ’20’s)

The one you know about is the geyser, Old Faithful. Once it was faithful, but since an 80’s earthquake it blows every 45 to 90 minutes. The only way to predict an eruption is by knowing the time of the previous one, add an hour and hedge your forecast by plus or minus ten minutes. We found the place by walking upstream against the traffic from the previous group of viewers. There’s seating for maybe 800 and standing room on a boardwalk for 5,000 more. While we sat I heard a little kid whining “I’m tired of waiting for Old Facebook!” and knew exactly how she felt. And then the steam began to pour, and off it went. Our verdict: good, not great.

White Dome Geyser Erupting
White Dome Geyser Erupting

The Grand Prismatic Spring and Mammoth Hot Springs were much better. The former is a classic hot spring with modest terracing (mineral buildup) and elaborate growths of extremophiles, bacteria that thrive in acidic liquids at temperatures above those needed to pasteurize milk. They form 3-D patterns resembling lichens in a multitude of colors. Mammoth is a terrace complex colored by extremophiles and accented by corpses of the trees it has killed as its location moved in recent years.

 Dragon's Mouth Fumarole

Dragon’s Mouth Fumarole
Grand Prismatic Spring with Extremophiles
Grand Prismatic Spring with Extremophiles
GPSprings Big Picture
GPSprings Big Picture
Dome Terrace at Mammoth Springs
Dome Terrace at Mammoth Springs

The volcano whose three eruptions created the area last blew 640,000 years ago. If the next eruption is only equal to the last (an 8 on the Volcanic Explosive Index) we could have another Ice Age. World temperatures will drop 3 to 5 degrees Celsius ending grain production in Canada and the Ukraine, and if Asian temps lead to a hard freeze just one night in their rice growing season, that crop will be lost. North American average temperatures will drop 10 to 15 degrees C, or 18 to 27 degrees Fahrenheit.

It would be a very nasty cure for global warming.

2 thoughts on “Yellowstone: Old Facebook, et al

  1. Ha! We had that same experience with old Faithful at Yellowstone. Except like fools we sat on one of the benches in the hot sun for about 40 minutes before it went off. The payoff was good as it shot up high in the air- for about 20 seconds. Like you, we enjoyed Mammoth Hot Springs much, much more.

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    1. You’ve been a regular read for Kat since we began thinking seriously of going full-time in an A/S last fall. We plan to visit Glacier in a few weeks, and your notes on your August ’12 visit will be most helpful.

      And it’s so good to hear that somebody else doing what we do is reading our stuff.

      By the way, happy anniversary to full-timimg!

      Jackson and Kat

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