Extreme Environments

Topics: Bacteria, Microorganism, Life Pages: 4 (1088 words) Published: November 8, 2011
In 1871, Grand Prismatic Spring was discovered and named by the Hayden Expedition for its striking coloration. Later, many geologists, traveled to the area to confirm the colors described by explorers and trappers. Grand Prismatic Spring is noted for being the largest hot spring in Yellowstone National Park and third largest in the world. The spring is located halfway between the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins. The central location provides dramatic scenery for Yellowstone’s fast visitors. The spring is approximately 90 meters wide and 50 meters deep and expels an estimated 560 gallons of water per minute.

A hot spring such as Grand Prismatic Spring, is an area where heated water can easily rise through cracks and fractures in the earth’s surface. The movement of water is not blocked by mineral deposits. Very hot water cools as it reaches the surface, sinks, and is replaced by hotter water from beneath. This circulation of water is fairly continuous and does not result in geyser eruptions. At Grand Prismatic Springs, siliceous sinter is precipitated from the silica-rich water and is deposited along the edge of the pool. This is represented by the white mineral deposits furthest from the colorful edge of the hot spring.

Grand Prismatic Spring sits on a bed of rhyolitic rock located on the west side of the present Yellowstone caldera. Rhyolite is a light colored volcanic rock with high silica content. Water deep in the Earth is warmed by the heat of the magma. This hot water circulates and dissolves some of the silica in the rocks, carrying it in solution to the surface of the hot spring. As the mineral-rich hot water flows over the ground and cools, silica compounds come out of solution and are deposited as a precipitate called siliceous sinter, creating the white-grey landscape around the spring.

thermophiles -- microbes that thrive in the high-temperature environments of many hydrothermal sites. These exceptionally hardy single-celled...
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