Yellowstone geysers become active again after dormant periods

Fan and Mortar geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park fluctuate between active and dormant periods. (Janet White/Geyser Watch - click to enlarge)

By Janet White

Yellowstone geyser enthusiasts are reporting that a handful of Yellowstone National Park geysers appear to be active again after periods of dormancy, including one geyser that last erupted almost two decades ago.

Morning Geyser, quiet for 18 years, is now active, and there is news that an electronic monitor on Echinus in Norris Geyser Basin picked up an eruption. North Goggles Geyser has also started erupting more regularly than the lone annual display it has typically shown over the past few years. The last time it was this active was 2004. Joining the list of newly reactivated thermal features are Fan and Mortar geysers, which may be beginning an active cycle.

Morning Geyser in the Lower Geyser Basin

Morning Geyser in Eruption in 1959 - NPS Photo by Park Geologist, George Marler

Morning Geyser erupts in 1959. (NPS photo by George Marler- click to enlarge)

Morning Geyser is one of the tallest and prettiest geysers in the Lower Geyser Basin.  The wide eruptions have the potential of reaching 200 feet tall. It is located in the Fountain Paint Pots area, just behind Fountain Geyser.  Morning Geyser last erupted in 1994. The first reported eruption this year occurred on Wed., June 20. A second eruption was reported the following day, with geyser gazers reporting online that Morning Geyser spewed for up to 30 minutes, reaching a height of 200 feet.

For the past few weeks, geyser gazer Maureen Edgerton has watched a change in her favorite geyser, Fountain Geyser, of longer intervals between eruptions than seen in recent years. It may be that there is a connection between Morning Geyser and Fountain Geyser, and a change in Fountain Geyser could result in changes in other thermal features in the area.

Edgerton’s time spent watching the area paid off with the first eruption shortly after noon on Wednesday. She noticed it first from the road, and even though she knows the area well, she remained skeptical, Morning Geyser is often confused with bursts seen from other geysers in the area. But Edgerton became certain that it was Morning Geyser erupting as she turned around, parked and headed to the overlook.

How long will Morning Geyser continue erupting? That’s hard to say, but based on past active cycles, it could be days or weeks. Then again, these two eruptions might be all that’s seen for a while. But we hope it continues to delight us for awhile, and allows more people to check seeing this rare geyser in eruption off their list.

But for those of us not in the Park at the moment, thankfully, we can watch a past eruption.

Fan and Mortar Geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin

To the delight of many, it seems that on the June 9, Fan and Mortar geysers started what is expected to be another cycle of activity. Every couple of years, Fan and Mortar geysers take a break and go silent. Prior to this eruption, they were last known to erupt in October 2011. Sometimes they take longer breaks than this, but no one appeared disappointed by the short nap and their recent reawakening.

Echinus Geyser erupting in February 1993 - NPS Photo by Jim Peaco

Echinus Geyser erupts in February 1993. (NPS Photo by Jim Peaco - click to enlarge)

When active, they erupt about every 3-5 days, sometimes appearing to “prefer” nighttime eruptions. Let’s hope this cycle sees more daytime eruptions.

Fan and Mortar Geysers are located in the Upper Geyser Basin, not far from Morning Glory Pool. Expect to see geyser gazers waiting there when it seems like an eruption is ‘due’ unless they all head to the more rare, Morning Geyser.

No further eruptions have been seen or noted by knowledgeable geyser enthusiasts, but one promising ‘event cycle’ was observed. It may take a bit longer for Fan and Mortar to fully reactivate.

Echinus Geyser in Norris Geyser Basin

The announcement of a third geyser reactivating came from an email sent to a geyser email list from Yellowstone National Park ranger Denise Herman, who relayed a message from Jacob B. Lowenstern, the scientist in charge of the U.S. Geological Survey’sYellowstone Volcano Observatory. Lowenstern noted that a temperature probe indicated that Echinus erupted at 3:25 a.m. on Mon., June 18, stating that “no one saw it, but it is the first known eruption since January 2011.”

Janet White is the creator of GeyserWatch.com.


	

12 thoughts on “Yellowstone geysers become active again after dormant periods

  1. I was fortunate enough to see Morning Geyser on Wed. just after it started to play. Amazing!! I passed Maureen on the boardwalk by the Fountain Paintpot, and she didn’t believe me when I told her it was Morning. I’m glad she was able to catch the last few bursts

    • How wonderful, Rusty! Do you have any observations, photos or videos you can share? If so, leave a link here in the comments, or if you need to have a place to post them, let us know and we’ll be happy to help with that.

  2. I didn’t have my camera with me. I thought, as did Maureen, that it was Fountain playing. I’m sure some video will surface. I did my best to let everyone that was there that this was a once in a lifetime event. The bursts were gigantic, and I’ve seen all of the major fountain geysers in Yellowstone over the last 11 years, including Giantess.

    • Hi Victor,

      I’m not a geologist, but I don’t think any correlations between geyser activity and the mantle plume have ever been made.

      There is the theory of “Exchange of Function” where the water underground shifts between thermal features.

      The biggest thing needed to prove or disprove anything is enough information. Keep an eye on Geyser Watch .com for ways the public can help.

  3. Hi Janet, I’d like to interview you to discuss the eruption of Morning Geyser and the other ones that have recently become active.
    I will be available much of tomorrow, Tuesday the 26th.
    tel/text (360) 808-4888

  4. I am a tour guide at Yellowstone. Just 2 days ago I was at Midway and saw the most boiling I have ever seen at Excelsior. Do you know if it is common to have about 3 foot height and 10 foot wide mini eruption? I have been there 100′s of times and never seen that much energy.

    • Hi Brian,

      Boiling like what you saw does happen – last year or the year before we noticed quite a few spots boiling.

      The last known eruptions of Excelsior occurred in 1985 when it had 30 foot tall eruptions and occasional larger ones, but nothing on the scale of the days of old.

      So glad to hear someone who visits there regularly is keeping an eye on it! I rarely try to get in the parking lot mid-summer.

  5. My hunch ( and it is just that ) is last year’s record snowpack and runoff has now percolated to depth and recharged the geyser chambers. There’s more hydrothermal water to eject this year.

    But since nature doesn’t publish the schematics for her underground plumbing, I’m out on a plank here…