A Model For Internal Oscillations in Geysers, With Application to Old Faithful (Yellowstone, USA)

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Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research

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We present a mechanical model for internal oscillations in geysers with “bubble trap” configurations, where ascending gas or vapor becomes trapped beneath the roof of a cavity that is laterally offset from the eruption conduit. We consider two cases, one in which the trapped gas behaves as an isothermal ideal gas, and one where it is treated as isenthalpic steam. In both cases the system behaves as a damped, harmonic oscillator with a resonant frequency that is sensitive to the conduit geometries and fluid volumes. We use the model to predict internal oscillation frequencies for Old Faithful geyser, in Yellowstone, USA, using conduit geometry constraints from the literature, and find that the frequencies predicted by the model are consistent with observations (~ 1 Hz). We show that systematic frequency increases during the recharge cycle, when the fluid volume of the system is increasing due to recharge, are consistent with either a decrease in the amount (both volume and mass) of trapped gas or vapor, a decrease in the eruption conduit area, or a combination of both.



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