Geothermal Features in Yellowstone National Park

July 30, 2015

Imperial Geyser

Photographer: Heather Renyck
Summary AuthorHeather Renyck

July 2015 Viewer's ChoiceYellowstone National Park is probably best known for its geothermal features, wildlife and for being home to a supervolcano. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the largest nearly intact temperate-zone ecosystems on Earth. Lesser known, perhaps, is the biogeochemical nature of the park's many hot springs, geysers, fumaroles and mud pots. Shown at top is Imperial Geyser, found in the Midway Geyser Basin, about 3.5 mi (5.6 km) from the trailhead. This colorful geyser has an alkaline pH. The colors are a result of mineral precipitation and the work of thermophile microbes that can metabolize toxic metals. One of the microbes found here is Synechococcus, a cyanobacterium that thrives in neutral to alkaline, non-sulfidic springs. This cyanobacterium can live in waters as warm as 165 F (74 C).

The bottom photo shows Lemonade Creek in Norris Basin. Lemonade Creek, also a thermal feature, has an acidic pH. The green color is a result of a eukaryotic, thermophilic microbe called Cyanidioschyzon. This microbe thrives in acidic waters with temperatures between 104 - 131 F (40 - 55 C). Photos taken on July 2, 2015.

Photo Details: Top - Camera Maker: OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP.; Camera Model: E-510; Focal Length: 9mm; Aperture: ƒ/8.0; Exposure Time: 0.0080 s (1/125); ISO equiv: 100; Software: QuickTime 7.7.1. Bottom - Same except: Aperture: ƒ/7.1.