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By: Efraim Harari

 In Yellowstone National Park (in the United States) and in many places in New Zealand and Iceland, the land is covered with both spewing geysers and colorful hot springs. Even in the winter, these areas are very steamy. These parts of Earth are known as geothermalareas, and they form when an abundant source of water meets an intense source of heat. The term geothermalis used to refer to the heat that comes from Earth's interior.

Beneath Earth's crust is a layer of magma (hot liquid rock). Geothermal areas exist where this magma is closer to the surface of Earth than in other areas, causing these regions to have significantly higher surface temperatures. For instance, the average thickness of the Earth's crust is about twelve to fifty miles thick, but in Yellowstone National Park, the magma chamber (magma housed by a layer of rock) is only three miles below Earth’s surface.

Most Famous Geyser

Old Faithful, located in Yellowstone National Park, is the world's best-known geyser. It is one of the most predictable geysers on Earth, erupting almost every ninety-one minutes. Eruptions can shoot up to 8,400 gallons of boiling water to a height of up to 185 feet and can last for one and a half to five minutes long.

Colorful Springs

Hot springs can be very colorful.
The colors are due to the substances found in the water, and are an indicator of what these substances are. If a spring has a red color to it, most likely it is caused by a large amount of iron in the water. If it is yellow, it is probably due to the presence of sulfur. Pinks and whites are often caused by the presence of calcium. Not all of the colors, however, are caused by minerals. If the water is blue or green, that gives an indication that microorganisms, such as algae and bacteria, have made their home there.

What is the differencebetween
geysersand hot springs?

When cold groundwater seeps down and is heated by the rocks touching the magma chamber under Earth’s surface, the hot water then rises to the surface in the form of a geothermal feature such as hot springs or geysers.

Hot springsoccur when this heated water forms a pool on the surface of the Earth. Since that's all it takes to form a hot spring, it the most common geothermal feature and can be found in places all over Earth. Hot springs vary in temperature and can be calm, bubbly, or boiling depending on how hot the magma chamber below it is. When the hot water travels up, it dissolves material from the surrounding bedrock and brings this material up to the surface with it. For this reason, hot springs tend to be full of minerals, and people have used these hot pools for medicinal purposes for centuries.

A geyseris a type of hot spring that periodically erupts, shooting columns of water and steam into the air. Like hot springs, geysers exist where there is an abundant supply of water and an intense heat source. However, geysers have one more key ingredient, and that is what keeps them from being just a hot spring: the right “plumbing.”

Unlike hot springs, where the heated water has a simple path to travel upward to reach the surface, geysers have a complex network of underground tunnels and reservoirs that trap the water and delay its arrival to the surface. While the water is trapped in the ground — sometimes as low as 10,000 feet underground — it gets heated far above the normal boiling point. However, due to the immense pressure that exists so deep down in the ground, the water cannot boil.

The super-heated water eventually rises to the surface, and as it does so, the pressure lessens. This lets the water start to boil, and steam starts to escape. The release of this steam allows some of the water to overflow and shoot out of the geyser's mouth. This in turn removes the pressure on the water below it, which suddenly starts to boil, too, and shoots out of the mouth of the geyser. This keeps happening to all the water within the chambers until there is no longer any water left to continue the eruption.

Bathers, Beware!

Some hot springs are way too hot and/or acidic for people’s usage. These hot springs can severely injure anyone who steps foot in them.

Dry Geysers

Fumarolesare steam vents that allow water vapor and gases to escape the surface of the Earth. They can be found at the base of volcanoes or in geothermal fields, both on land and on the floor of the ocean. They are hotter than hot springs and geysers; any groundwater that enters a fumarole is instantly turned into steam. For this reason, fumaroles are sometimes called "dry geysers."