Watch Yellowstone's Old Faithful gush hot water that freezes and creates snow

If you’re visiting Yellowstone National Park this winter, you may see Old Faithful doing an interesting snow trick on really cold days. OK, it’s not really a trick, but science.

Basically, super-heated water from the Yellowstone geyser spews up, hits super-cold air and appears to be shooting snow instead of scorching water as high as 180 feet in the air.

Here’s how Science Alert describes what happens:

“While it might look like Old Faithful is erupting frosty snow straight out of its depths, what's actually happening here is that the hot water is instantly forming a cloud as it hits the air outside, and that cloud then begins to snow.”

Orville Bach of the National Park Service captured a Dec. 22 snowy eruption on video and posted it on the park’s YouTube channel. It’s called “Old Faithful Eruption at 0°F,” and so far has received more than 97,000 views. 

I asked the park service whether this is a special phenom, and the public relations office emailed: “It happens all winter long, during every eruption.”  Good news for travelers who don’t want to miss the show.

There was this clarification too: “It is NOT the equivalent of a snow making machine. The video that we posted a few weeks ago has generated some erroneous stories.” 

By the way, Old Faithful’s water can be as hot as 204 degrees F, which freezes faster than cold water in cold temperatures, according to Science Alert. 

As proof, here’s a photo of what it looks like when someone throws tea into the air on a freezing cold day.

But back to Old Faithful. You can watch eruptions on a park webcam. When can you count on the geyser to erupt? On average, every 74 minutes, though it can range from 60 minutes to 110 minutes. 


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