Triggering and modulation of geyser eruptions in Yellowstone National Park by earthquakes, earth tides, and weather



We analyze intervals between eruptions (IBEs) data acquired between 2001 and 2011 at Daisy and Old Faithful geysers in Yellowstone National Park. We focus our statistical analysis on the response of these geysers to stress perturbations from within the solid earth (earthquakes and earth tides) and from weather (air pressure and temperature, precipitation, and wind). We conclude that (1) the IBEs of these geysers are insensitive to periodic stresses induced by solid earth tides and barometric pressure variations; (2) Daisy (pool geyser) IBEs lengthen by evaporation and heat loss in response to large wind storms and cold air; and (3) Old Faithful (cone geyser) IBEs are not modulated by air temperature and pressure variations, wind, and precipitation, suggesting that the subsurface water column is decoupled from the atmosphere. Dynamic stress changes of 0.1−0.2 MPa resulting from the 2002 M-7.9 Denali, Alaska, earthquake surface waves caused a statistically significant shortening of Daisy geyser's IBEs. Stresses induced by other large global earthquakes during the study period were at least an order of magnitude smaller. In contrast, dynamic stresses of >0.5 MPa from three large regional earthquakes in 1959, 1975, and 1983 caused lengthening of Old Faithful's IBEs. We infer that most subannual geyser IBE variability is dominated by internal processes and interaction with other geysers. The results of this study provide quantitative bounds on the sensitivity of hydrothermal systems to external stress perturbations and have implications for studying the triggering and modulation of volcanic eruptions by external forces.