[Geysers] Grotto shenanigans, and a researcher question

David Schwarz david.schwarz at alumni.duke.edu
Sun Feb 27 19:50:20 PST 2011

   Sorry, disregard.  Paul Silver of Carnegie was the lead for the birdhouse
project.  I think the moon lander _was_ Stu Rojstaczer's, though.  I can't
remember what the connection was between the studies, if any, but I'm pretty
sure they both started around 1996.

David Schwarz

On Sun, Feb 27, 2011 at 8:21 PM, David Schwarz <
david.schwarz at alumni.duke.edu> wrote:

>    Minor quibble:  Duke University, not the Carnegie Institute.  Those
> boxes were part of Stuart Rojstaczer's project.  As I understood it, one
> goal, at least for funding purposes, was to determine whether variation in
> the behavior of relatively regular geysers could be used to predict
> earthquakes.  He later presented the study as "the first comprehensive
> effort to monitor geyser activity in the Old Faithful region of Yellowstone
> National Park over a lengthy (one year) time period."
>    I think the secondary sensors were themocouples connected to radio
> transmitters.  If you knew where to look near Bonita Pool, you could pick
> out a suspicious line of small rocks leading up to a object that could have
> passed for a hamster-sized moon lander.
> David
> On Sun, Feb 27, 2011 at 1:13 PM, Mary Beth Schwarz <schwarzmb at gmail.com>wrote:
>>      The Carnegie Institute study used motion detectors set into little
>> boxes that resembled bird houses high in trees but visible to visitors.  The
>> signals were sent to the OFVC with with sensors powered with solar batteries
>> except for the Castle monitor which had a large orange ice chest that was
>> difficult to camouflage at the base of the tree.
>>      The summer volunteers turned in lots of eruption data as requested to
>> check the accuracy of the monitors.  The "bird house" for the Grand sensor
>> was easily seen  from the boardwalk and generated questions constantly.
>> Especially at night there was so much steam movement at Grand that the
>> actual eruption time was not discernible.  It was even worse for Castle
>> since there are so many splashes in the interval not to mention lots of
>> steam movement.  They tried to block out times when Castle could not be
>> ready to erupt, but with minors and then the next major the intervals could
>> be short and it never worked well.
>>      Indeed the monitors at Daisy and Riverside were the ones that worked
>> fairly well.
>>      Mary Beth Schwarz
>> On Sat, Feb 26, 2011 at 4:16 PM, Ralph Taylor <ralph.c.taylor at gmail.com>wrote:
>>> >>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
>>> geyser.
>>> 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
>>> even).
>>>  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
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