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Types and Processes Gallery - Geothermal Activity

Geothermal Activity
Ascending hot magmatic fluids mix with near-surface groundwater to form active geothermal systems with dramatic surface features such as hot springs, solfataras, fumaroles, mudpots, geysers, and hot acid lakes. These hydrothermal features are common at stratovolcanoes and young calderas and can persist for hundreds of thousands of years. Active hydrothermal systems often precipitate colorful deposits of native sulfur and other minerals. Spectacular geysers are popular attractions in places such as Yellowstone and at Icelandic volcanoes. Reservoirs of steam or hot water in geothermal fields have been tapped for electrical power in many volcanic regions.

Vigorous steam plumes rise from craters near the summit of On-take volcano on November 9, 1979. The first historical eruption from On-take, in central Honshu, Japan, began on October 28 and produced ashfall to the NE from a 1.5-km-high eruption plume. Intense vapor emission (with minor ash that dusted the summit region) continued for several months.

Photo by T. Kobayashi, 1979 (courtesy Tokiko Tiba, National Science Museum).

Raususan [Mendeleev]
Brilliantly colored deposits of elemental sulfur surround fumarolic vents on the NW side of the central cone of Mendeleev volcano, in the southern Kuril Islands. Fumarolic areas on Mendeleev are associated with lateral craters at this location and at several areas from the NE to SE flanks, where the central cone meets the inner caldera wall of Mendeleev. Hot springs occur on the NE flank and along the NE coast, where the Goriachi-Pliazh geothermal field is located.

Photo by Yuri Doubik (Institute of Volcanology, Petropavlovsk).

Riverside Geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin is the most regular of Yellowstone's geysers. Every six hours it erupts a 25-m-high inclined jet from a small vent hole on the east bank of the Firehole River 2 km downstream from Old Faithful.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1968 (Smithsonian Institution).

Mud pots boil in this 1978 view of the San Jacinto thermal area at El Salvador's Telica volcanic complex. The alignment of fumaroles and mud pots suggests an underlying fault running NNE. Magmatic steam and gases have been emitted from the thermal area for many years at a fairly constant rate.

Photo by Jaime Incer, 1978.

Vigorous mud eruptions occur at Las Hornillos thermal area on the west flank of Costa Rica's Miravalles volcano. A geothermal project in the 15 x 20 km Guayabo caldera (inside which Miravalles volcano was constructed) provides a major component of the electrical power needs of Costa Rica.

Photo by William Melson, 1988 (Smithsonian Institution)