Geyser periodicity and the response of geysers to deformation


  • S. E. Ingebritsen,

  • S. A. Rojstaczer


Numerical simulations of multiphase fluid and heat transport through a porous medium define combinations of rock properties and boundary conditions which lead to geyser-like periodic discharge. Within the rather narrow range of conditions that allow geyser-like behavior, eruption frequency and discharge are highly sensitive to the intrinsic permeabilities of the geyser conduit and the surrounding rock matrix, to the relative permeability functions assumed, and to pressure gradients in the matrix. In theory, heat pipes (concomitant upward flow of steam and downward flow of liquid) can exist under similar conditions, but our simulations suggest that the periodic solution is more stable. Simulated time series of geyser discharge are chaotic, but integrated quantities such as eruption frequency and mass discharge per eruption are free of chaos. These results may explain the observed sensitivity of natural geysers to small strains such as those caused by remote earthquakes, if ground motion is sufficient to induce permeability changes. Changes in geyser behavior caused by minor preseismic deformation, periodic surface loading, and Earth tides are more difficult to explain in the context of our current model.