Learn about hot springs and what heats these pools of water.
Explore the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, and in Warm Springs, Georgia, and learn how hot springs can be used as sources of renewable energy.
What Is a Hot Spring?
The 2005 television film, Warm Springs, dramatizes Franklin D. Roosevelt’s pilgrimages to the naturally heated pools of water in Warm Springs, Georgia. FDR first visited the springs in 1924 as a form of therapy for the polio that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
He eventually built a house nearby, the Little White House, where he died in April 1945.For more than 20 years, the former U.S. President often swam in the 32 degree-Celsius (90 degree-Fahrenheit) water flowing from the springs as a way to relieve his lower-body pain, and people still go to the Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation for the same purpose. But what makes the water there so warm?A hot spring is a place where groundwater is heated by energy created by the earth.
Like the springs in Warm Springs, Georgia, water from hot springs is said to have many beneficial properties, but springs can also provide spectacular tourist attractions, like Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
What Is a Spring?
Groundwater begins as rain and snow, seeping deep into the ground until it hits solid rock and can go no further. Collecting in underground pools called aquifers, groundwater eventually rises back up to the surface through cracks in the earth’s crust called vents.Places where groundwater pools on the ground are called springs. Yes, it’s where we get the fancy word spring to describe bottled water. Despite the clever marketing, not all spring water is clean enough to drink. Like all water sources, springs can be contaminated by pollutants or contain unsafe levels of minerals or bacteria.
And only very few springs produce water hot enough to earn the name hot spring.
What Makes A Hot Spring Hot?
There are about 40-50 hot spots throughout the world, areas where rising magma manages to get close enough to the earth’s surface to produce a great deal of heat. We think of hot spots like Iceland and Hawaii as being full of gushing red lava and ash, but not all hot spots lead to volcanic eruptions.In some hot spots, magma heats groundwater before it rises to the surface, creating pools of warm water (warm springs) and even hot water (hot springs). Sometimes, a spring will even fill with hot mud, creating a boiling mudpot.
The Hot Springs of Yellowstone National Park
Located in the Midway Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful and Excelsior Geyser Crater are examples of three different hot springs.The water in the Grand Prismatic Spring checks in at 93 degrees Celsius (199 degrees Fahrenheit), which is near boiling and almost double the temperature of the warm springs used by President Roosevelt. The largest hot spring in the United States, the Grand Prismatic Spring, gets its name from its size and the beautiful colors created by the many different types of bacteria that thrive in such hot water.A geyser, like Old Faithful, is a specific type of hot spring. Tubes of rock extend far into the ground, and groundwater is heated by magma, or molten rock. Like the spout on a tea kettle, the water in a geyser eventually gets hot enough to emit steam and sometimes water into the air. Old Faithful shoots out almost-boiling water (95.
6 degrees Celsius) about every 90 minutes without fail. That kind of reliability gets you a name like Old Faithful.With its last known eruption taking place in 1985, the Excelsior Geyser Crater is now an inactive geyser that acts like a hot spring. The pool formed by this hot spring spews between 4,000 and 4,500 gallons of scalding-hot water into the nearby Firehole River every minute. If you do the math, that is about six million gallons per day.
Using the Energy of Hot Springs
People and animals have long used hot springs as a source of warmth. In the past 100 years, humans have started to build geothermal power plants, using the energy created by hot springs to turn turbines, which in turn generates electricity.
Geothermal energy is a renewable resource and, unlike wind and solar energy, can be reliably produced in many different climates. However, there are drawbacks to using geothermal energy, and it has been known to cause small earthquakes and weaken areas of the ground, creating depressions or sinkholes.
Hot springs are places where groundwater is heated by energy created by the earth. Some of the most famous ones are found in Yellowstone National Park and Warm Springs, Georgia, where Franklin D.
Roosevelt spent years undergoing therapy and swimming. Hot springs are created when rain and snow seep below Earth’s surface as groundwater, until hitting solid rock and collecting in pools, or aquifers. Magma heats this water, which then rises back up to the surface through cracks in the earth’s crust, called vents, forming a hot spring. Over the past 100 years, people have begun using hot springs as a source of renewable energy.
There are pros and cons to using geothermal energy, and its use is still a topic of debate.