Difference Between Geysers and Volcanoes

Geysers and volcanoes but accompany very high-temperature eruptions from beneath the Earth.

But, while geysers accompany only hot water and steam and are not very harmful, hot molten magma (lava) overflowing from mountain tops causes havoc for both nature and its components.

They both emerge deep down from the Earth’s surface but their mechanism is different. 

Geysers vs Volcanoes

The main difference between geysers and volcanoes is that geysers are a type of hot spring that contains jets of hot water accompanied by steam. They are not very harmful and often used as tourist attractions in national parks. Volcanoes are the eruption of hot magma (lava) from the mountain tops and often cause harsh weather conditions and take lives.  

Geysers vs Volcanoes

Geysers are a rare type of hot spring and there are a total of 1,000 geysers approximately across the globe. The size and frequency of geysers can vary but all of them erupt boiling water and steam turbulently.

The top five countries with active geysers are the US, Chile, Iceland, Russia, and New Zealand. 

A volcano is an eruption of molten magma (lava) accompanied by hot gases and rock pieces. Volcanoes are often accompanied by a series of earthquakes.

The molten lava from the Earth’s surface either flows continuously or erupts like a fountain into the air. Volcanoes cause heavy damages in densely populated areas and the ash that accompanies them causes severe breathing problems. 

Comparison Table Between Geysers and Volcanoes

Parameters of ComparisonGeysersVolcanoes
DefinitionA geyser is a type of hot spring that periodically ejects hot water accompanied by steam on the Earth’s surface with a turbulent force. Volcanoes are defined as the eruption of liquid rock (magma) from deep down the Earth’s crust. 
ContentsGeysers mainly erupt jets of water and steam into the air. During a volcanic eruption, hot magma (lava), rock pieces, ash, gaseous sulfur compounds, cinders, etc come onto the Earth’s surface. 
CauseSteam explosion is the main cause of geysers as the superheated groundwater suddenly blasts and vents out from the surface. The main cause behind volcanic eruption is the movement of tectonic plates which leads to pressure change and forces the magma to overflow. 
EffectsAtmospheric environment may change due to a large amount of heat energy released but they are mostly used as tourist attractions. It makes the weather very dangerous and fast-moving lava can kill and damage settlements (humans and animals). 
DependencyVolcanic eruptions are likely to be found around geysers. Geysers are not a mandatory process for volcanoes to erupt.
GeographyYellowstone National Park (USA) is prone to geysers. Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, and Mexico are very hazardous countries in terms of volcanic eruptions. 

What are Geysers?

A geyser, in simple words, is a vent on the surface of Earth from which hot water and steam are ejected at a very high force. The force is big enough to raise the water stream to a few hundred feet in the air and that is why they are a big tourist attraction.

The most famous geyser in the whole world is Old Faithful and it is situated in the USA. In this geyser, the water raises from 100 to 200 feet in the air.

For the formation of a geyser, four conditions are required to be met. They are the presence of hot rocks beneath the surface, abundant groundwater, a subsurface reservoir of water, and the formation of fissures through which the stream of water erupts.

Since the source of hot rock is mandatory, geysers are often found in the sites of volcanic activity. 

The eruption time between two hot streams varies for different locations. But, scientists think that the delay in the eruption time may be caused due to declining underwater sources in those areas. This is an indication of drought.

The tallest geyser in the world was witnessed in New Zealand (Waimangu geyser) but unfortunately due to the alternation of hydrology (caused by a landslide), it had stooped erupting. 

What are Volcanoes?

Volcanoes are best defined as vents from where lava (molten magma), rock fragments, and various gaseous compounds erupt to the surface of the Earth. The slow accumulation of erupted lava leads to the formation of volcanic terrains.

Due to a series of cracks and earthquakes, the chambers that contain the molten magma gets linked and erupt continuously (over and over again) in a single site. 

The molten rocks that mainly erupt as the lava contains chemical like iron, magnesium, silicon, calcium, etc. After cooling down, these minerals turn into crystalline form and once it becomes completely solid turn into ingenious or magmatic rocks.

A volcano originates ten miles beneath the Earth’s surface and since the magma is lighter than the surrounding rocks it is brought to the surface by buoyancy. 

There are approximately 1,300 potentially active volcanoes across the globe apart from the continuous volcanoes on the ocean floor. Most of these volcanoes are located around the Pacific Rim and that is why it is known as the “Ring of Fire”. 

The volcanoes are categorized into three main categories. They are active, dormant, and extinct volcanoes.

Depending on the mechanisms, content, shapes, and structure, there are mainly four types of volcanoes, namely, cinder cones, composite volcanoes, shield volcanoes, and lava domes. 

Main Differences Between Geysers and Volcanoes

  1. A geyser is a type of hot spring that periodically ejects hot water accompanied by steam whereas a volcano is an eruption of liquid rock (magma) from deep down the Earth’s crust to the mountain tops. 
  2. Geysers mainly erupt jets of water and steam into the air whereas a volcanic eruption contains hot magma (lava), rock pieces, ash, gaseous sulfur compounds, cinders, etc.
  3. Steam explosion is the main cause of geysers as the superheated groundwater suddenly blasts and vents out. On the other hand, the main cause behind volcanic eruption is the movement of tectonic plates.
  4. Atmospheric environment may change due to the large amount of heat energy released from a geyser whereas a volcano makes the weather very dangerous and fast-moving lava can kill and damage settlements (humans and animals).
  5. Geysers are accompanied by volcanic eruptions but not vice-versa. 
Difference Between Geysers and Volcanoes

Conclusion

Geysers are not as harmful as volcanoes as they don’t have a direct impact on civilization. But, the delay time between two eruptions in a geyser may be an indication of potential drought (lack of groundwater).

Geysers mainly eject hot water and steam and do not contain any harmful gases or ash. Volcanoes, on the other hand, are very dangerous as they are accompanied by landslides and earthquakes.

The largest existing active volcano in the whole world is Hawaii’s Mauna Loa and Indonesia is the country with the largest number of active volcanoes. 

References

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/24489
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0377027320304078
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