Yellowstone National Park’s famous Old Faithful geyser is famously reliable, firing a jet of scalding water and steam high into the air some 17 times a day at 60 to 110-minute intervals.
But new research suggests that 800 years ago a severe drought caused this geyser, which was once somewhat hyperbolically known as “Eternity’s Timepiece,” to stop erupting altogether for many decades, reports Colin Barras for Science. When taken with climate model predictions of increasingly severe droughts, the findings could mean that America’s most dependable geyser will erupt less often or stop completely in the future.
Researchers arrived at the new findings, published last week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, by studying 13 chunks of petrified wood found on Old Faithful’s mound. Trees can’t survive the geyser’s blasts of super-heated, alkaline water, so finding trees growing on Old Faithful’s mound is a sign that its regularly scheduled