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Geysers of the World   

Geysers of Yellowstone   



  Plume Geyser
Feature Type: Geyser
Geyser/Spring Type:

Upper Geyser Basin
Geyser Hill

For most of the history of the park, Plume was a fairly regular performer despite intervals that increased toward the turn of the millennium. In 1997 almost all eruptions occurred on intervals of 23-27 minutes and consisted of 4 quick but strong bursts that each reached over 20 feet. In 2010 intervals were around an hour apart and consisted of 5 bursts.

When active, Plume provides an excellent opportunity to see a fairly large geyser at close range. When the wind is strong you may get splashed with the spray. Don't worry, water droplets cool very quickly so you won't get burned.

Plume was created by a steam explosion in 1922. In 1972 there was another steam explosion that opened a new vent. This second steam explosion changed the shape of the eruption from a beautiful 40 foot plume to a still beautiful but shorter 20-25 foot burst.

Unfortunately, this lovely geyser entered into dormancy in the winter of 2012-13, its last known eruption coming on January 26, 2013. There have been sporadic reports of activity of various kinds near the crater, but definitely nothing like the Plume of old. Keep an eye on this site, though; a reactivation of Plume would be a source of joy to gazers far and wide.

What to look for:
Plume erupts suddenly from an empty crater. Water can be heard gurgling as it rushes to the surface and then becomes visible for only a second or two prior to bursting skyward. This is repeated while pausing for 10-20 seconds between each burst. Check at the Old Faithful Visitor Center to get current activity information.

Electronic Monitor Files
Plume eruptions for 1997.txtPlume eruptions for 1998.txt
Plume eruptions for 1999.txtPlume eruptions for 2000.txt
Plume eruptions for 2001.txtPlume eruptions for 2002.txt
Plume eruptions for 2003.txtPlume eruptions for 2004.txt
Plume eruptions for 2005.txtPlume eruptions for 2006.txt
Plume eruptions for 2007.txtPlume eruptions for 2008.txt
Plume eruptions for 2009.txtPlume eruptions for 2010.txt
Plume eruptions for 2011.txt 

Some of the temperature data used to derive the eruption times and durations used in this section were collected by Ralph Taylor under a National Park Service research permit, and the remainder was collected by personnel working for the Geology Department of the Yellowstone Center for Resources (including Ralph Taylor). The loggers are a combination of loggers owned by the NPS and Ralph Taylor. Analysis of the raw temperature data to extract the eruption data was performed by Ralph Taylor. The eruption time files on this website may be used provided that Yellowstone National Park is credited for the temperature data and Ralph Taylor is credited for the eruption times.

Activity Recorded by Data Logger - by Ralph Taylor  

Plume Geyser has been monitored electronically since at least 1997. The data from 1997 to mid-1998 is nearly complete, then from September 1998 to June 2002 the data covers only the summer months, generally from late June to early October. Since mid-2003 the record is nearly complete but there is a gap from 2 April to 2 May 2006 when the logger was not downloaded and a gap from 10 to 27 February 2008 when a thermistor failed.

Because of the relatively long sample intervals (the different data sets use sample intervals of 30 seconds and 1 minute) it is not feasible to determine Plume's durations. The bursts that comprise a Plume eruption last only seven to ten seconds each. By the time the water reaches the sensor, which only records a temperature every minute, the individual bursts are not distinguishable. I have tried one second samples, but even at that resolution it was not possible to determine the burst count.

Plume has periods during which it stops erupting overnight, known since at least 1991. The early 1990 diurnal changes are detailed in my paper in GOSA Transactions Volume V titled Plume Geyser: History and Recent Changes.

The diurnal variation had disappeared in the late 1990s, but returned in the early years of the 21st century. By 2003 Plume began to have periods of dormancy lasting for many weeks in some cases. 2004 and 2005 saw numerous instances of activity separated by dormancies, with the beginning and end of the active periods often occurring near the time of Giantess eruptions. In January, February, and December of 2006 there were several brief, usually overnight, dormancies.

Activity in 2011  
The overall statistics for 2011 are shown at Plume Geyser 2011 Statistics. A pdf of this summary is at Plume Geyser Recent Activity Summary.

The interval graph shows all of the intervals for 2011. The red diamonds show the eruption start times for Little Squirt Geyser. The Little Squirt eruption times are used as a surrogate for the so-called SMax (South [Geyser Hill] water level MAXimum), which is thought to represent a cyclic change in the hydrothermal energy on Geyser Hill. This hypothesis is described in an article in GOSA Transactions Volume IV titled Cyclic Hot Spring Activity on Geyser Hill, Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park-Graphical and Interpretive Descriptions of the Geyser Hill Wave, Diurnal Effects, Seasonal Disturbances, Random (Chaotic?) Events, and Earthquakes by T. Scott Bryan. The green triangles show the first eruption of each recorded Dome Geyser series. Activity in Dome geyser is also known to affect some other features on Geyser Hill.

The long intervals in January and February are actual long intervals, not missed eruptions due to ice dams.

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The next graph shows the intervals for the past three months at an expanded time scale.
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The next graph shows the intervals for the month prior to the last download, again showing the Little Squirt activity as red diamonds.
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The next graph is a histogram of the distribution of intervals. Note that in this and the other histograms displayed here the labels shown on the X-axis represent the upper boundary of the class, not the midpoint. Geyser times are traditionally truncated. The graph at the right has class widths of two minutes. The bar appearing above the label "1:20," for example, contains intervals from 1h19m through 1h20m.
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The final graph gives the monthly minimum, mean, median, and maximum intervals.
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Activity since 1997  
Plume's activity has been monitored only in the summer months for much of the time, so the full cycle is not shown on the graphs. The first graph shows all of the intervals recorded since 1997. In 1997 intervals were between 22 and 30 minutes, then during 1998 the intervals rose to the 40 minute range and remained in that range until late 2002 when intervals increased and Plume began having periods of dormancy. The discontinuous plot in 2003-5 reflects the periods of activity and dormancy.
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The moving median graph shows the trends a little more clearly than the graph of all intervals. The sudden rise in intervals by more than 10 minutes in midsummer of 1998 and 1999, both followed by a decline lasting for weeks, is unexplained. However, the three notable peaks in 2001, the two peaks in 2002, and the beginning and end of many of the active episodes in 2004 and 2005 correspond with eruptions of Giantess Geyser.
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The monthly statistics graph shows the monthly average (both mean and median) intervals remaining comfortably below one hour until 2003. The rise to more than three hours in 2004 is attributable to long intervals before and after dormant phases. In 2006 the long intervals occurred only in mid-winter and Plume did not have any dormancies.
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The next graph is similar but has an expanded vertical axis to reveal more about the mean and median intervals.
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Activity in 2010
Activity in 2009
Activity in 2008
Activity in 2007
Activity in 2006
Activity in 2005

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Please note - this site is currently under constuction. Please visit for more information.  Last update 01-29-2017

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