Thermal Rivers ⋆ Boiling River
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Thermal Rivers

The most common inquiry our team gets about the Boiling River generally follows this pattern:

 

“Wow! The Boiling River is really impressive! But I’ve seen large hot springs/a thermal river elsewhere in the world—what makes the Boiling River so special?”

 

Firstly, we always appreciate curiosity and with this section we hope to address this frequently-asked question. Secondly, if you have seen a large thermal river, Andrés Ruzo would love to know about it! He is currently building a global database of large geothermal features (thermal springs, rivers, pools, etc.) so your experiences and observations could be very valuable! Please see Citizen Science and be a part of the science!

What Makes the

Boiling River So Special?

The short answer:

it’s massive!

The Boiling River is an anomalously large thermal river. It flows hot for almost 4 miles (over 6 kilometers), is generally about as wide as a two-lane road, but can get up to 80 feet (around 25 meters) wide at its widest point, and can get to 16 feet (about 5 meters) deep at its deepest point. Even more impressive, despite the tremendous amount of hot water, it is non-volcanic. In fact the nearest active volcanic center is over 430 miles (over 700 kilometers) away!

 

Though it does exhibit high temperatures (which are impressive in their own right), the temperatures are not unusual for geothermal features (volcanic or non-volcanic).

 

Is it the biggest thermal river in the world? Maybe. That’s why we are calling upon citizen scientists to submit thermal rivers so we can find the answer! Check out Citizen Science for instructions on how to submit thermal river information.

Digging a Little Deeper…

Geothermal features (thermal springs, fumaroles, etc.) can be found all over the world both in volcanic and non-volcanic areas, and even under the sea. But finding a thermal river (i.e., a large, flowing body of hot water) can often be tricky, even in volcanic areas.

 

To generate a large geothermal feature you need three factors working together in just the right balance: (1) A powerful heat source (volcanic or non-volcanic), (2) large amounts of water, and (3) the right subsurface geologic conditions (“plumbing system”) to get all that water to the Earth’s surface.

 

You are far more likely to encounter a geologic setting with these three “perfect conditions” working together in volcanic areas. This does not mean you cannot get these conditions in non-volcanic areas—but it is just not as common, and when they do occur, the resulting non-volcanic thermal features are generally not as large and not as hot as volcanic ones.

This is why the Boiling River is so unusual—it is huge, hot, and non-volcanic.

 

Is it the biggest thermal river in the world? Maybe. That’s why we are calling upon citizen scientists to submit thermal rivers so we can find the answer! Check out Citizen Science for instructions on how to submit thermal river information.