The chloride concentration of some thermal springs in and adjacent to Yellowstone National Park is constant through time although their discharge varies seasonally. As a result the chloride flux from these springs increases during periods of increased discharge. We believe that this is caused by changes in the height of the local groundwater table, which affects the discharge of the springs but not their chloride concentration. The discharge from Mammoth Hot Springs varies seasonally, but its chloride concentration remains constant. We take this as evidence that this major thermal feature is derived from orifices that are tapping the local water table close to its surface. Three of the four major rivers (Yellowstone, Snake and Falls) exiting the Park also show an increased chloride flux during the spring runoff that cannot be explained solely by the contribution of snowmelt, nor by release of hot-spring-derived chloride stored in the soil during the winter and released in the spring. The increased chloride flux in these rivers is attributed to their draining shallow hot springs similar to those mentioned above. In contrast to the Yellowstone, Snake and Falls Rivers, the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers, which unite to form the Madison River and which collectively drain several major geyser basins, display a poor correlation between chloride flux and discharge. The cause, we believe, is that a large part of the thermal water input to these two rivers originated at great depths where the seasonal variation in the height of the water table had a negligible effect on hot spring discharge. Monitoring of seasonal discharge and chloride concentration of thermal features yields information on the depths at which these thermal features tap the local water table. ?? 1990.
Additional publication details
Anomalous chloride flux discharges from Yellowstone National Park