Geysers[/url] are one of the most surreal wonders of our planet – pools of turquoise that periodically erupt into towers of water and steam. But what we see from the surface is only a small part of the story. Geysers require two main ingredients: an intense geothermal heat source and the right plumbing. Below ground, that plumping needs both a reservoir for water to gather and narrow constrictions that encourage the build-up of pressure.
A cycle begins with water filling the reservoir; this can be both geothermally heated water and groundwater seeping in. As the geyser fills, the pressure at the bottom increases. Eventually, the water becomes superheated, meaning that it’s hotter than its boiling point at standard atmospheric pressure. That’s when the steam bubbles you see above rise to the surface. When they break through, it causes a sudden drop in the reservoir pressure. The superheated water there flashes into steam, causing the geyser to erupt. Check out the full video below for some awesome high-speed video of those eruptions, and, if you’re curious what the inside of an active geyser looks like check out Eric King’s video. (Image and video credit: The Slow Mo Guys; submitted by @eclecticca)
Three basic components are necessary for a geyser: water, an intense geothermal heat source, and an appropriate plumbing system. In order to achieve an explosive eruption, the plumbing of a geyser includes both a reservoir in which water can gather as well as some constrictions that encourage the build-up of pressure. A cycle begins with geothermally heated water and groundwater filling the reservoir. As the water level increases, the pressure at the bottom of the reservoir increases. This allows the water to become superheated–hotter than its boiling point at standard pressure. Eventually, the water will boil even at high pressure. When this happens, steam bubbles rise to the surface and burst through the vent, spilling some of the water and thereby reducing the pressure on the water underneath. With the sudden drop in pressure, the superheated water will flash into steam, erupting into a violent boil and ejecting a huge jet of steam and water. For more on the process, check out this animation by Brian Davis, or to see what a geyser looks like on the inside, check out Eric King’s video. (Video credit: Valmurec; idea via Eric K.)