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No. 71: Sep-Oct 1990

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Wyoming: a periodic spring

Wyoming spring
"Near the base of a limestone cliff in Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest, spring water gushes from an opening for several minutes, stops abruptly, then begins a new cycle a short time later. This is Periodic Spring, whose intermittent flow is a rare geologic phenomenon. The water is cold and clear, an indication that this is not a geyser like Old Faithful; such geysers, of volcanic origin, send forth hot water. Through the years various observers have timed the flows at anywhere from four to twentyfive minutes, with similarly varying dry spells. The intermittent flow is especially regular in late summer and autumn. During stormy periods or when there is heavy snow melt-off, the flow fluctuates but does not stop entirely."

At full flow, Periodic Spring discharges about 285 gallons/second into a stream 9 feet wide and 1 feet deep. Periodic Spring, therefore, is fairly impressive, but it is not anomalous. (Mohlenbrock, Robert H.; "Periodic Spring, Wyoming," Natural History, 99: 110, April 1990.)

Comment. Siphon action nicely explains periodic springs. Water keeps flowing through the upper loop until the water level in the reservoir drops below the siphon intake. The spring will not flow again until the reservoir fills to the top of the upper loop(level a) again initiating siphon action. Siphon action seems simple and easy to explain; why mention it here? Well, spherical pendulums are ostensibly simple, too, but we now know that they sometimes run amok and chaotic motion develops. Like Old Faithful Geyser, there is a possibility that periodic springs also may exhibit chaotic behavior on occasion.

From Science Frontiers #71, SEP-OCT 1990. 1990-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987