Yellowstone National Park’s Steamboat Geyser fell silent in April without a single eruption, but scientists say major eruptions are likely on the way.
The famous geyser which has the distinction of being the highest erupting geyser in world, has an irregular record for eruptions, and at times has gone decades without one.
But, in 1959, the region felt the massive Hebgen Lake earthquake, measuring 7.5 on the Richter Scale centered just outside the western boundary of Yellowstone. Two years later and for the first time in 50 years, Steamboat Geyser erupted. Speculation was raised that that renewed activity was a direct result of thermal energy shifts caused by the 1959 quake; others say it was coincidental.
Over the years, Steamboat’s eruptions have been sporadic. Some years saw frequent eruptions, such as 1982–1983, when dozens of eruptions occurred. In 2018 the geyser boiled back to life and shocked park officials by shooting super-heated water high into the sky 32 times. 2019 was even more active with a record 48 eruptions and nearly 50 eruptions in 2020. But by 2021, the geyser slowed down dramatically erupting only 20 times.
So far in 2022, the geyser has had a total of only four major water eruptions but scientists at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory say it is experiencing frequent minor eruptive activity and that suggests the current cycle of major eruptions is probably not yet over.