[Geysers] Grotto shenanigans, and a researcher question

Ralph Taylor ralph.c.taylor at gmail.com
Sat Feb 26 14:16:19 PST 2011

>>On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 10:12 AM, Davis, Brian L. <brdavis at iusb.edu>wrote:

> 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).

I remember seeing them.  They were about 12 inches tall by maybe 8 inches
square, if I recall correctly after all these years.  They used a radio link
to computers in the old OFVC, and integrated at least two sensors, infrared
and another that I don't recall.  They were located 10-12 feet above ground
level in trees, one across the bike path from Castle, one across the river
from Riverside, one in the trees south of Daisy, and one near Old Faithful
(I don't recall just where).

> > 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.
> Plenty of loggers exist now -- last summer we had about 40 deployed in the
Upper, Midway, Lower, and West Thumb Geyser basins.  Over the winter of
2010-2011 there are 39 loggers deployed.  True, Lone Star is not covered,
but one reason for that is that nobody has expressed interest in doing an
analysis of Lone Star, and it is inconvenient to deploy and monitor that one

I do not know of any infrared monitoring attempts since the Carnegie
Institute "boxes" we have been discussing.

Any instruments left in the field *do* require a permit, and the permit
conditions generally require that the equipment be "out of the view of the
public".  This can be difficult if the equipment requires a clear view of
the geyser.  While an infrared sensor is only "as invasive to the
environment as a camera", that is only true if it is hand-held and removed
when the observer leaves.  If the infrared sensor is left in the field, it
is no less invasive than our thermistor probes and loggers.

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

>>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...
A logger using a thermistor (better suited to the conditions than
thermocouples) costs less than $200 and we have had pretty good success with
reliability and robustness.  Freeze-thaw cycles don't seem to hurt the
instruments but ice dams can form and divert runoff away from the sensors.
The sensors we use are stainless steel encased, so watertightness is not a
problem.  The loggers are no more or no less difficult to make waterproof
than an infrared sensor with an attached data logger, and do not have
problems with fog, animals blocking the view, or snow accumulating in front
of the lens.

>>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)
I can't comment on #1, but I disagree with #2.  In either case, placement
options are limited, but generally doable.  There are a few geysers that we
have not monitored because of placement difficulty, but very few.  Finding a
way to do an infrared logger for a geyser like Beehive with little cover
around would be quite challenging in my opinion.

>>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
I suspect that separating out the different geysers in a multi-geyser setup
would be an interesting challenge.  Picking out eruptions from other
variations in signal is the hardest thing about the logging that I do.

>>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.

Ralph Taylor

Brian Davis
Geysers mailing list
Geysers at lists.wallawalla.edu

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