Yellowstone’s Steamboat Geyser, the Tallest in the World, Erupted a Record 47 Times in 2019

VARIOUS Steam rises from the Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park Wyoming, United States of America 2010s
Steam rises from the Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.Design Pics Inc / Shutterstock

It was a record-setting year for the tallest active geyser in the world. The Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park set a new milestone for eruptions after blowing out 47 times in 2019, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

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The previous record was 33 eruptions, which was set in 2018. The record is particularly unique because Steamboat Geyser has previously gone years—even decades—without erupting at all, according to USA Today. Between 1911 and 1961, the geyser was very quiet before a period of activity in the 1980s.

There’s no clear reason for the current stretch of increased geothermal activity at Steamboat Geyser. The way geysers erupt is mostly random, although scientists told CNN that “several heavy snow years” at Yellowstone have created more meltwater, which could cause the geysers to erupt more.

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“They’re mostly random and experience phases of alternating eruptive activity,” Michael Poland, the USGS scientist-in-charge at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, told CNN. “So while fascinating, it’s not unusual, nor cause for concern.”

Yellowstone contains about half of the world’s natural geysers, including the Ledge Geyser, the second-largest geyser in the park’s famed Norris Geyser Basin. Earlier this year, the Ledge Geyser also erupted, spouting water for the first time in three years. While the Steamboat Geyser is bigger—during major eruptions, it can shoot water 300 feet into the air—Ledge is known for being a noisy one.

“It’s really a fun one because it’s really loud,” park geologist Jeff Hungerford told the Billings Gazette earlier in 2019.

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Like Steamboat, the Ledge Geyser has gone through several active and dormant periods. According to the NPS, it erupted at regular intervals of 14 hours in the past. It went quiet from 1979 to late 1993, and then erupted every four to six days in 1994 and 1995.

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