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No. 77: Sep-Oct 1991

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Some Old Geysers Are Not So Faithful

Yellowstone's Old Faithful has a namesake in Calistoga, California. This notso-well-known geyser is usually very dependable, erupting every 90 minutes, shooting 350F water 60 feet into the air. However, some 60 hours before the October 1989, 7.1-magnitude quake in the San Francisco Bay area, the geyser's period suddenly lengthened to more than 100 minutes. After the quake, it settled back into its usual routine. Prior to two other earthquakes, in 1975 and 1984, the clockwork of Calistoga's Old Faithful also ran slow. (Anonymous; "Unfaithful Geyser," Discover, 12:8, July 1991.)

Comment. Since the quake epicenters were many miles distant from the geyser, how is the geyser's clockwork altered? Somehow, small earth movements must have changed the size of the geyser's water reservoir or, possibly, pressure changes in the surrounding rocks might have reduced the flow of water into the reservoir. Pertinent here are the often-observed changes in well levels and spring flows prior to earthquakes.

Reference. Geysers display many anomalies. These are cataloged in GHG1-GHG3 in the book Earthquakes, Tides. For details on ordering, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #77, SEP-OCT 1991. 1991-2000 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