What are the Chances of Seeing Steamboat Geyser Erupt?

Steam Phase of the May 23, 2005 Eruption of Steamboat Geyser. Photo by Bruce Gourley.

Yellowstone National Park’s Steamboat Geyser, the largest geyser in the world, rarely erupts. Yet it has done so three times this spring: March 15, April 19, and April 27.

Although the three recent eruptions are relatively small compared to major eruptions of the past, the April events discharged roughly ten times the volume of water as does Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone’s most famous geyser.

Scientists are not certain why Steamboat erupted multiple instances in a short time span, but note that the eruptions do not represent any known change in the underlying Yellowstone supervolcano. Scientific studies indicate that the supervolcano will likely remain stable for thousands of years.

Steamboat Geyser has a long history of inconsistent but sometimes clustered eruptions. From 1878 to 1960, there were only 7 known eruptions. The years 1964, 1978, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1989, 2002 and 2003 witnessed multiple eruptions. Yet during the time span of 1961 through 2003, only 6 eruptions occurred apart from multiple-year events. Since that time, 3 singular eruptions have occurred: 2005 (pictured, steam phase), 2013 and 2014.

What are the chances of you seeing Steamboat Geyser erupt during a visit this year? It’s impossible to say. But whether you witness a Steamboat eruption or not, any visit to Yellowstone National Park is spectacular.