Yellowstone National Park is home to 500 geysers, roughly half of Earth’s total. And one of them, Steamboat Geyser, is the most powerful and tallest active geyser in the world. In some eruptions, Steamboat has shot a column of water up 300 feet.
But it can also go years without much of a show.
This year has been a productive one for Steamboat—it’s already erupted three times. Seismograph data showed that the first eruption was on March 15, at about 5:30 a.m. No one was around when the water shot up, but the National Park Service captured footage a day later, during the steam phase that follows the main blast. Steamboat erupted again on April 19 and April 27. Each event was small by the geyser’s standards, but at least two of the columns held more water than Old Faithful sends up. (Read about Yellowstone’s earthquake swarm.)
Yellowstone Volcano Observatory reports that the cause of the series is unknown, but it could show a shift to smaller, more frequent eruptions. Scientists add that geyser activity doesn’t indicate a volcanic eruption. The Yellowstone supervolcano’s eruptions are very unlikely anytime soon, and—contrary to its reputation—usually non-apocalyptic.
Nobody got to witness any of Steamboat’s recent eruptions firsthand. But scientists hope that newly placed seismic sensors might allow advance notice for activity in the future. So visitors may ultimately get a chance to view eruptions from this amazing geyser. (Explore more of the awe-inspiring sights at Yellowstone.)