Yellowstone volcano’s bubbling hot springs are proof of the supervolcano’s incredible power, even deep beneath the surface of Yellowstone Lake. Yellowstone Lake, which measures about 130 square miles, is home to one of the most diverse volcanic habitats on Earth. A new Yellowstone study has now found thermometers around the Yellowstone volcano feature spike to some of the highest levels on Earth. With scorching temperatures up to 174C (345F) hundreds of feet deep in the water, Yellowstone’s volcanic power is tremendous.
Reports of the geothermal power hidden in Yellowstone Lake date back to the 19th century and the Hayden Geological Survey of Yellowstone in 1871.
But scientists have only explored the deeper reaches of the lake for the past 20 years or so, leaving a lot of Yellowstone volcano’s secrets yet to be found.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has now revealed the findings of a three-year-long study of Yellowstone Lake’s geothermal activity.
The Yellowstone research project, dubbed Hydrothermal Dynamics of Yellowstone Lake (HD-YLAKE), measured temperatures at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake.
Scientists from the University of Minnesota closely examined the lake’s underwater hot springs, thermal vents and the chemistry of the spewing water.
A USGS report on the study reads: “The hottest vent measured during the HD-YLAKE study were found in the Deep Hole area just east of Stevenson Island, the deepest area of Yellowstone Lake at 410 feet (125m).
“The hottest vent measured was a whopping 345F (174C). This is much hotter than any surface hot spring at Yellowstone, because the weight from the overlying lake water acts like a pressure cooker lid and allows temperatures higher than boiling to be reached.
“Indeed, these are the hottest hydrothermal vents measured in a lake anywhere in the world.”
The researchers found the scorching water and gas seeping out of tiny holes in the lake’s bottom.
The miniature vents were found to only measure roughly three inches (10cm) each.
The gas released by the openings is rich in hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide, which suggests they are fuelled by steam.
However, the incredible temperatures witnessed in Yellowstone Lake make long-term studies of the volcano’s hydrothermal activity problematic.
The USGS said: “The high-durability PVC data logger for the sensor that was partly submerged – by about two inches, or 5 cm – in lake sediment well away from an active vent showed evidence of melting, indicating that the high temperatures in the Deep Hole are more widespread than previously thought.
“This underscores the challenges of long-term monitoring of hot and corrosive vent fluids.
“Considering the softening temperature for PVC is about 212F (100C), it is remarkable such high temperatures are present in sediment bathes in 39F (4C) lake water.
“The data lager record, however, was complete and has provided important chemical and physical data that is currently under study.”
In another part of Yellowstone Lake, in the West Thumb Area, scientists have found water temperatures of up to 141C (286F) at depths of 175ft (53m).
The USGS said even these more “modest” temperatures are much higher than at surface hot springs.