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Thermal Areas on Earth: Always Popping Up All Over

Jul 18, 2015 12:10 AM EDT
Mammoth Hot Springs has terraces that run over a hill, across a parade ground, and down to the Boiling River, a real place.
A new thermal feature at Mammoth Hot Springs, a location at the northern end of Yellowstone National Park, has temporarily closed a small road.
(Photo : Wikipedia Commons)

Ready to boil an egg just off the Yellowstone National Park roadway? In the places known for magma chambers not far under the earth and hot water that crops up in unexpected spots, such as Iceland; Kamchatka, Russia; the North Island of New Zealand, and other places on the planet, it isn't so surprising when the ground shifts to reveal more rivulets of boiling water. That's what happened yesterday at Yellowstone's Mammoth Hot Springs, known mostly for its high terraces of hot pools in calcified colors. The area has a new thermal feature, it seems, and a road has been temporarily closed--to the park location's Upper Terrace Drive--to accommodate the earth's change.

The new feature had become visibly active in May, near the area's parking lot. It created new small terraces adjacent to the Upper Terrace Drive, as the Great Falls Tribune reported.

Geologists and rangers who monitored the feature found temperatures up to 152 degrees Fahrenheit. Thermal activity seemed higher this week near and under the pavement. Thermal imaging also shows heat under the pavement, said KPAX-TV in Missoula, Mont.

Because the area did not hold snow in the winter, park officials knew it had heat near the surface, said Dr. Hank Heasler, a park geologist. "We drilled two holes a half-meter (20 inches) deep, both of which now have hot water bubbling at the surface or very near the surface," he said, according to the Great Falls Tribune.

Even with all this going on, another rivulet or two of very hot water is pretty unsurprising at Yellowstone. Park visitors can still walk on the Upper Terrace Drive, and staff is preparing logs to keep the thermal feature's outflow off the pavement. Once they're in place, the drive will reopen to cars, as the Tribune reported. 

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