[Geysers] Grotto shenanigans, and a researcher question

Davis, Brian L. brdavis at iusb.edu
Thu Feb 24 07:12:07 PST 2011

David Schwarz wrote:

>The main problem with the tree-mounted sensors (can't remember
> if they were detecting motion or heat) was that they couldn't distinguish
> between steam clouds and a water column.

Is there any more description of these or the "camera boxes"? I'm not familiar with either (how they worked, when/where they were deployed, etc).

> The idea of using a non-contact IR thermometer pointed at the runoff
> instead of a thermister seems like it would work, but then it's one more
> piece of hardware to fail in extreme Yellowstone conditions...

That's true - but a system that might work, some of the time, still seems preferable to a system that doesn't exist and isn't recording anything (the current state of affairs at Lone Star and... well, most of the rest of the known geysers). It might just be a "summer system". It might not even work then. but I think it's an interesting alternative, and I wasn't sure if anyone had tried it, or even used one of these remote IR thermometers on a geyser. It would seem ideal, as it does *not* require a permit - it's exactly as invasive to the environment as a camera.

> it sounds unduly complex and probably expensive compared to using
> a ready-made physical probe/logger system.

Again, a good point at least on cost - it would seem this would be a custom job, not something that can be grabbed off the shelf. And while PIR and IR sensors are cheap, they certainly aren't as cheap as a thermocouple. But I'm not at all sure it would be more complicated - it's a sensor with an analog or digital output. You wire that into a datalogger. The only additional mechanical problem is pointing it (but, you no longer need a sensor that is waterproof and surviving multiple freeze-thaw cycles in water, which isn't a simple problem to solve either). But there are some possible compensatory advantages...

1) It's perhaps more likely to get permission to "install" something small and "off the sinter" than permission to put something in a runoff channel (making sure it's hidden from everyone).

2) It also potentially makes it easier to access to maintain (the number of placement options go way up)

3) One "installation" can potentially monitor many geysers (all within unobstructed line-of-sight). If you're in a runoff channel that's not much. If you could get away with this from a hill (or the top of a building) overlooking, say, geyser hill, it might be a very economical way of "monitoring" a lot of things simultaneously (with a multi-channel recorder even).

Is it immediate and off-the-shelf, perfect for what we'd like? Nope... if there was something like that, we'd be using it. But it is an interesting ideal I think. Next time I get in the neighborhood, maybe I'll try to find an IR thermometer to test.

Brian Davis

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