Re­searchers seek to find Old Faith­ful’s plumb­ing

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Sci­en­tists from the US and Den­mark are seek­ing to map out the plumb­ing sys­tem hid­den in­side the earth’s crust that’s re­spon­si­ble for the fa­mous Old Faith­ful geyser and other hy­dro­ther­mal fea­tures at Yel­low­stone Na­tional Park. Through­out Novem­ber the re­search team will con­duct flights over the park us­ing a gi­ant, hoop-shaped elec­tro­mag­netic sys­tem sus­pended from a he­li­copter. The de­vice acts like an X-ray to de­ter­mine where and how hot wa­ter flows be­neath the sur­face. The team also hopes to gain in­sights into the in­fre­quent but some­times mas­sive hy­dro­ther­mal ex­plo­sions that oc­cur in the park, said lead sci­en­tist Carol Finn with the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey.

One such ex­plo­sion, or pos­si­bly mul­ti­ple ex­plo­sions, that oc­curred roughly 13,800 years ago left a crater that mea­sures 1-1/2 miles across be­neath at the bot­tom of Yel­low­stone Lake. It’s be­lieved to be the largest such crater in the world. Sim­i­lar to the reg­u­lar erup­tions of Old Faith­ful, hy­dro­ther­mal ex­plo­sions oc­cur when huge pock­ets of boil­ing wa­ter be­neath the ground ex­pe­ri­ence a sud­den drop in pres­sure, caus­ing the wa­ter to con­vert to steam and ex­plode vi­o­lently to the sur­face.

Sim­i­lar work else­where in the US has helped re­veal haz­ards from vol­ca­noes. “No­body knows any­thing about the flow paths” for the hot wa­ter that erupts from Yel­low­stone’s gey­sers, Finn said. “Does it travel down and back up? Does it travel lat­er­ally?” The elec­tro­mag­netic sys­tem was de­vel­oped in Den­mark to map out ground­wa­ter sup­plies in Den­mark. It’s able to dis­cern be­tween wa­ter and rocks to a depth of about 1,500 feet be­neath the sur­face.

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