Monday, September 3, 2012

Yellowstone: A Beautiful, Yet Stinky Place.

Plug Your Noses and Open Your Eyes!  It's YELLOWSTONE!

Yes, Yellowstone is one of the coolest and stinkiest places on Earth.  As a part of a geology vacation, uh, I mean field course, we took a trip to Yellowstone National Park to study groundwater systems.  We measured discharge rates and dissolved solids.  As the water moves through the rock, it dissolves certain elements and carries them to the surface.  The water at Yellowstone is chock full of dissolved goodies, much more than the water we drink.  

This spring was flowing pretty quick.  We walked to the bridge that you see in the distance and lowered the Rand-Bot to measure the depth and such.

He was glad we didn't drop him.

Can't write about Yellowstone without a few pictures of furry woodland creatures near your vehicle.

Here, we are walking on a boardwalk that allows you to get quite close to the hot springs.  The hot springs are very photogenic.  Cool meteoric (rain and snow) water enters the ground and travels downward until it encounters the hot volcanic rocks in Yellowstone's sub-surface.  The hot rock heats the water and it begins to rise.  (Remember, heat rises?)  As the hot water comes out of the ground, silica or calcium carbonate are deposited at the surface depending on the type of rock the water was travelling through.  If the rock was flowing through the volcanic rocks of Yellowstone, like rhyolite, then silica is deposited (called sinter).  If it travels through limestone, then calcium carbonate will be deposited (called travertine).  It makes some awesome, otherworldly landforms!  And the fog makes you feel like you are on another planet as well.  Look at those aliens coming through the fog!

By the way, the hot springs are the cause of the stinky-ness.

Blue, NO!  AHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhh..........

Hot meets cold

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, upper falls.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, lower falls.

New hot springs and steam vents will occasionally crop up at  random places.  This one has scorched the hillside over time.

So we did do some work.  Rather, Brandon did.  We watched him collect samples from water running over the side of this mound-o-travertine.  P.S.  We had permission to do all this....paperwork and everything....

More furry woodland creatures.
This is at Mammoth Hot Springs.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Everywhere you looked there were deposits like these ...and next to them, the greenest, lushest, most beautiful woods.  The trees don't stand up well to hot stuff though.  You can see some dried up goners in this terraced mound of travertine.

Near Mammoth, sink holes like these form due to the collapse of cave roofs.

What about Old Faithful?  Well, first of all, Old Faithful isn't so faithful anymore.  We had to wait quite awhile to see it go off.  The geyser is really just like any of the hot springs in the park except that it has a constriction near the surface ( the "pipe" the water travels through gets thin).  The constriction causes pressure to build.  Eventually, the super hot water reaches the surface and its pressure drops.  This causes the water to instantly turn into steam.  Then out comes Old Faithful.  After the eruption, the pressure builds again, and we wait.  I didn't get any pictures of Old Faithful because I decided to film it.  Unfortunately, the footage wasn't too great.  So here is a picture I ripped off from somewhere else.

 Old Faithful.  From here.

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