Is it safe to visit the Valley of Geysers? Scientists find out by means of temperature recorders

Is it safe to visit the Valley of Geysers? Scientists find out by means of temperature recorders.


In one of the unique and most attractive places of the Kronotsky Reserve (or the whole world!) – the valley of the Geyser River – hydrogeologists have received new information about the geysers work regime.

For six months, the geysers eruptions regime has been monitored by special loggers. The data obtained will help to understand whether to expect new changes in the Valley during the nearest future. Among other things, scientists wanted to fimd out how to predict emergencies in the Valley to ensure the visitors safety.

The need to monitor the Valley of Geysers became quite urgent fifteen years ago. On June 3, 2007, a rock collapse of 20 million cubic meters occurred in the Valley. It has been the most powerful in the entire history of observations. In a few minutes, around one third of all the geysers in the Valley have been buried under the rubble. Afterwards, a sub-pond was formed, which flooded another third of the geysers that had earlier existed there. Later, some of the geysers were released from under the water when its level dropped. And some (like, for example, the Pervenets (translated as Firstborn)), managed to free themselves out even from under the stones.

The second disaster of a similar scale occurred on January 3, 2014. A mudslide of 3 million cubic meters passed through the valley of the Geyser River and damaged many pulsating springs and geysers that remained untouched after the first collapse.

After the landslide in 2007, scientists began to observe changes in the regime of geysers more purposefully, to analyze how this disaster affected the remaining geysers and how they revived after the water level decreased. It was important to find out what geological and hydrological conditions led to the collapse. Scientists explained the collapse by a combination of several factors – abundant snowmelt in the mountainous area, thermal activity on the slopes of the gorge, instability of rocks and, possibly, magmatic activity of the Kihpinych volcano.

Today, continuous monitoring is being conducted in the Valley. Keeping track of this unique object is very important for two reasons. The first is scientific — in order to better understand the processes taking place in the floating gorge. The second is to ensure safety of the visitors, as several thousand tourists arrive in the Valley of Geysers every year.

To predict possible "disturbances" in the Valley, scientists observe the cyclical nature of geyser eruptions and the dynamics of the total discharge of the hydrothermal system. These parameters can show changes in the mode of operation of the geysers and suggest in advance that catastrophic events may repeat. Temperature loggers are used for measurements. These record the temperature of the geyser water at the outflow. Loggers are changed twice a year. They give possibility for the scientists to get a complete understanding of the reference geysers Bolshoy and Giant in the Valley of Geysers, as well as the Turbid geyser in the Uzon caldera, work regime.

To assess the discharge of the hydrothermal system as a whole, that is, all geysers and pulsating sources, in the lower reaches of the Geyser River, scientists measure the concentration of chlorine. This chemical element is a tracer of deep discharge of the hydrothermal system. By the mass consumption of chlorine, scientists determine how the deep discharge changes over time.

"As the experience of the abovedescribed geological disasters shows, they are preceded in a few days or months by tangible changes in the regime of hydrothermal discharge, therefore, in addition to instrumental observations, we hope for the observation of experienced inspectors of the Kronotsky Reserve," said Alexey Kiryukhin, senior researcher at the Kronotsky State Reserve, hydrogeologist. – The creation of a system of instrumental geological and geophysical on-line monitoring and warning, that is, a network of hydrological, seismological, geodetic stations in the Valley of Geysers and the Uzon caldera could also increase the safety of people staying there. Although this will require significant financial costs, but it is necessary to consider this possibility in the future, taking into account the experience of Yellowstone National Park in the USA."