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Hot Springs: Definition, Formation Process, Examples, and Utilization

by Widiya

What is a hot spring? Hot springs are geothermal springs that rise from the Earth’s crust to the ground. Hot springs vary in size and produce water that is in the range of warm temperatures to very hot. The definition of hot springs is actually very universal, for example, hot springs can also be interpreted as warmer water from the surrounding environment, warmer than human body temperature, warmer than the surrounding soil temperature, or warmer than 50˚C (122˚F). Some hot springs are often used by local people to bathe, while if the water produced is hot enough, it is often used to boil eggs.

Formation of Hot Springs

Hot springs can form in several ways. The most common occurs when rainwater or groundwater is heated by magma beneath the surface of the Earth. Cracks or faults on the surface of the Earth allow water to flow deeper into the mantle, where contact with hot rocks that heat water.

Subterranean pressure then forces hot water upward, then to the Earth’s surface through the same gap or fault. The amount of pressure under the ground determines how fast and how far the hot water will flow. Hot springs as above are usually formed in areas with volcanic activity.

Hot springs can also be formed when the infiltration of water (water into the soil) is heated by the decay of radioactive elements in rocks. For every 1,000 feet, groundwater is heated with an additional 15˚F. In this condition, hot water becomes thicker and will rise through cracks and fractures to the surface of the Earth.

When hot water reaches the surface, it can flow slowly or quickly depending on the amount of pressure from the underground. In general, the hot spring flow rate differs depending on the volume of underground water and the amount of underground pressure. Formation and availability of hot springs often associated with geysers.

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Utilization of Hot Springs

Hot springs can be a popular tourist spot. For example, hot springs contain very high mineral content, including radium, lithium, and calcium, which some belief can treat several diseases such as skin diseases and asthma.

Hot springs are also sometimes used as a therapy for the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities. In Japan, many spas are made around hot springs. However, hot springs with very hot water can also contain chemicals that are harmful to the body and can cause burns.

Examples of Famous Hot Springs

The largest hot spring in the world is at the Grand Prismatic Spring, located in Yellowstone National Park, United States. This hot spring has a width of about 110 m, a depth of 50 m, and has a flow rate of 2,100 liters per minute.

“Blood pond” in Japan is characterized by bright red water caused by rust and has a high iron concentration. Jigokudani is the most popular volcanic hot spring in Japan. Other famous hot springs are Elizabeth Spring, Lava Hot Spring, and Glenwood Spring.

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