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Hot spring

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Title: Hot spring  
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Subject: Grand Prismatic Spring, Spring (hydrology), Arasbaran, Geyser, Nevis
Collection: Bathing, Bodies of Water, Hot Springs, Hydrothermal Vents, Springs (Hydrology)
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Hot spring

A hot spring is a spring produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater that rises from the Earth's crust. There are geothermal hot springs in many locations all over the crust of the earth. While some of these springs contain water that is the correct temperature for bathing, others are too hot to do so and immersion can result in injury or death.


  • Definitions 1
  • Sources of heat 2
  • Flow rates 3
    • High flow hot springs 3.1
  • Therapeutic uses 4
  • Biota in hot springs 5
  • Notable hot springs 6
  • Etiquette 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


"Blood Pond" hot spring in Beppu, Japan

There is no universally accepted definition of a hot spring. For example, one can find the phrase hot spring defined as

  • any geothermal spring[1]
  • a spring with water temperatures above its surroundings[2]
  • a natural spring with water temperature above body temperature – normally between 36.5 and 37.5 °C (97.7 and 99.5 °F)[3]
  • a natural spring with warm water above body temperature[4]
  • a thermal spring with water warmer than 36.7 °C (98 °F)[5][6]
  • a natural spring of water greater than 21.1 °C (70 °F) (synonymous with thermal spring)[7][8][9][10]
  • a natural discharge of groundwater with elevated temperatures[11]
  • a type of thermal spring in which hot water is brought to the surface. The water temperature of a hot spring is usually 6.5 °C (12 °F) or more above mean air temperature.[12] Note that by this definition, "thermal spring" is not synonymous with the term "hot spring"
  • a spring whose hot water is brought to the surface (synonymous with a thermal spring). The water temperature of the spring is usually 8.3 °C (15 °F) or more above the mean air temperature.[13]
  • a spring with water above the core human body temperature – 36.7 °C (98 °F).[14]
  • a spring with water above average ambient ground temperature[15]
  • a spring with water temperatures above 50 °C (122 °F)[16]

The related term "warm spring" is defined as a spring with water temperature less than a hot spring by many sources, although Pentecost et al. (2003) suggest that the phrase "warm spring" is not useful and should be avoided.[14] The US NOAA Geophysical Data Center defines a "warm spring" as a spring with water between 20 and 50 °C (68 and 122 °F).

Sources of heat

Water issuing from a hot spring is heated geothermally, that is, with heat produced from the Earth's mantle. In general, the temperature of rocks within the earth increases with depth. The rate of temperature increase with depth is known as the geothermal gradient. If water percolates deeply enough into the crust, it will be heated as it comes into contact with hot rocks. The water from hot springs in non-volcanic areas is heated in this manner.

In active volcanic zones such as Yellowstone National Park, water may be heated by coming into contact with magma (molten rock). The high temperature gradient near magma may cause water to be heated enough that it boils or becomes superheated. If the water becomes so hot that it builds steam pressure and erupts in a jet above the surface of the Earth, it is called a geyser. If the water only reaches the surface in the form of steam, it is called a fumarole. If the water is mixed with mud and clay, it is called a mud pot.

Note that hot springs in volcanic areas are often at or near the boiling point. People have been seriously scalded and even killed by accidentally or intentionally entering these springs.

Warm springs are sometimes the result of hot and therapeutic effects by paraplegic U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who built the Little White House there).

Flow rates

Deildartunguhver, Iceland: the highest flow hot spring in Europe

Hot springs range in flow rate from the tiniest "seeps" to veritable rivers of hot water. Sometimes there is enough pressure that the water shoots upward in a geyser, or fountain.

High flow hot springs

There are many claims in the literature about the flow rates of hot springs. It should be noted that there are many more high flow non-thermal springs than geothermal springs. For example, there are 33 recognized "magnitude one springs" (having a flow in excess of 2,800 L/s (99 cu ft/s) in Florida alone. Silver Springs, Florida has a flow of more than 21,000 L/s (740 cu ft/s). Springs with high flow rates include:

  • The Excelsior Geyser Crater in Yellowstone National Park yields about 4,000 U.S. gal/min (0.25 m3/s).
  • Evans Plunge in Hot Springs, South Dakota has a flow rate of 5,000 U.S. gal/min (0.32 m3/s) of 87 degree spring water. The Plunge, built in 1890, is the world's largest natural warm water indoor swimming pool.
  • The combined flow of the 47 hot springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas is 35 L/s (1.2 cu ft/s).
  • The hot spring of Saturnia, Italy with around 500 liters a second[17]
  • The combined flow of the hot springs complex in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico is estimated at 99 liters/second.[18]
  • Lava Hot Springs in Idaho has a flow of 130 liters/second.
  • Glenwood Springs in Colorado has a flow of 143 liters/second.
  • Elizabeth Springs in western Queensland, Australia might have had a flow of 158 liters/second in the late 19th century, but now has a flow of about 5 liters/second.
  • Deildartunguhver in Iceland has a flow of 180 liters/second.
  • The hot springs of Brazil's Caldas Novas ("New Hot Springs" in Portuguese) are tapped by 86 wells, from which 333 liters/second are pumped for 14 hours per day. This corresponds to a peak average flow rate of 3.89 liters/second per well.
  • The 2,850 hot springs of Beppu in Japan are the highest flow hot spring complex in Japan. Together the Beppu hot springs produce about 1,592 liters/second, or corresponding to an average hot spring flow of 0.56 liters/second.
  • The 303 hot springs of Kokonoe in Japan produce 1,028 liters/second, which gives the average hot spring a flow of 3.39 liters/second.
  • The Oita Prefecture has 4,762 hot springs, with a total flow of 4,437 liters/second, so the average hot spring flow is 0.93 liters/second.
  • The highest flow rate hot spring in Japan is the Tamagawa Hot Spring in Akita Prefecture, which has a flow rate of 150 liters/second. The Tamagawa Hot Spring feeds a 3 m (9.8 ft) wide stream with a temperature of 98 °C (208 °F).
  • There are at least three hot springs in the Nage region 8 km (5.0 mi) south west of Bajawa in Indonesia that collectively produce more than 453.6 liters/second.
  • There are another three large hot springs (Mengeruda, Wae Bana and Piga) 18 km (11 mi) north east of Bajawa, Indonesia that together produce more than 450 liters/second of hot water.
  • The Dalhousie Springs complex in Australia had a peak total flow of more than 23,000 liters/second in 1915, giving the average spring in the complex an output of more than 325 liters/second. This has been reduced now to a peak total flow of 17,370 liters/second so the average spring has a peak output of about 250 liters/second.[19]
  • In Yukon’s Boreal Forest, 25 minutes north-west of Whitehorse in northern Canada, Takhini Hot Springs flows out of the Earth’s interior at 385 L/min (85 imp gal/min; 102 US gal/min) and 47 °C (118 °F) year-round.[20]

Therapeutic uses

Japanese open air hot spring in Nachikatsuura, Wakayama
Hammam Essalihine, Roman hot spring in Algeria

Because heated water can hold more dissolved solids than cold water, warm and especially hot springs often have very high mineral content, containing everything from simple calcium to lithium, and even radium. Because of both the folklore and the claimed medical value some of these springs have, they are often popular tourist destinations, and locations for rehabilitation clinics for those with disabilities.[21][22][23]

Biota in hot springs

A thermophile is an organism — a type of extremophile — that thrives at relatively high temperatures, between 45 and 80 °C (113 and 176 °F).[24] Thermophiles are found in hot springs, as well as deep sea hydrothermal vents and decaying plant matter such as peat bogs and compost.

Algal mats growing in a New Zealand hot pool

Some hot springs biota are infectious to humans. For example:

  • Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba, live in warm waters and soils worldwide and may cause meningitis.[25][26] Several deaths have been attributed to this amoeba, which enters the brain through the nasal passages.[27][28]
  • Viruses have been collected from very extreme environments, for example, a hot spring with a temperature of 87 to 93 °C (189 to 199 °F) and an incredibly acidic pH of 1.5 in Pozzuoli, Italy. These viruses were observed to infect cells in the laboratory.[32]

Notable hot springs

Distribution of geothermal springs in the US
Macaques enjoying an open air hot spring or "onsen" in Nagano
Churning Caldron in Yellowstone National Park
Rock face in Ruby Beach with hot springs in the Olympic National Park, Washington State, USA
Lake Hévíz in Hungary, the largest thermal lake in Europe

There are hot springs in many countries and on all continents of the world. Countries that are renowned for their hot springs include China, Costa Rica, Iceland, Iran, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, Taiwan, Turkey, and United States, but there are hot springs in many other places as well:


Depending on the hot spring you attend will depend on the customs and practices you must observe. It is common practice that bathers should wash before entering the water so as not to contaminate the water (with/without soap).[40] In many countries, like Taiwan, it is required that you enter the hot spring with no clothes on, including swimwear. Typically in these circumstances, there are different facilities or times for men and women. In some countries, if it is a public hot spring, swimwear is required.

See also


  1. ^ "MSN Encarta definition of hot spring". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. 
  2. ^ Miriam-Webster Online dictionary definition of hot spring
  3. ^ Wordsmyth definition of hot spring
  4. ^ American Heritage dictionary, fourth edition (2000) definition of hot spring
  5. ^ Infoplease definition of hot spring
  6. ^ Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006. definition of hot spring
  7. ^ Wordnet 2.0 definition of hot spring
  8. ^ Ultralingua Online Dictionary definition of hot spring
  9. ^ Rhymezone definition of hot spring
  10. ^ Lookwayup definition of hot spring
  11. ^ Columbia Encyclopedia, sixth edition, article on hot spring
  12. ^ Don L. Leet (1982). Physical Geology (6th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.   Leet states that there are two types of thermal springs; hot springs and warm springs.
  13. ^ "Water Words Glossary - Hot Spring". NALMS. 2007. Archived from the original on January 14, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  14. ^ a b Allan Pentecost, B. Jones, R.W. Renaut (2003). "What is a hot spring?". Can. J. Earth Sci. 40 (11): 1443–6.   provides a critical discussion of the definition of a hot spring.
  15. ^ For example, ambient ground temperature is usually around 55–57 °F (13–14 °C) in the eastern United States
  16. ^ US NOAA Geophysical Data Center definition
  17. ^ Terme di Saturnia, website
  18. ^ John W. Lund, James C. Witcher (December 2002). "Truth or Consequences, New Mexico- A Spa City" (PDF). GHC Bulletin 23 (4). 
  19. ^ W. F. Ponder (2002). "Desert Springs of Great Australian Arterial Basin". Conference Proceedings. Spring-fed Wetlands: Important Scientific and Cultural Resources of the Intermountain Region. Retrieved 2013-04-06. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ The web site of the Roosevelt rehabilitation clinic in Warm Springs, Georgia
  22. ^ Web site of rehabilitation clinics in Central Texas created because of a geothermal spring
  23. ^ Analytical results for Takhini Hot Springs geothermal water:
  24. ^ Madigan MT, Martino JM (2006). Brock Biology of Microorganisms (11th ed.). Pearson. p. 136.  
  25. ^ Naegleria at eMedicine
  26. ^ Shinji Izumiyama, Kenji Yagita, Reiko Furushima-Shimogawara, Tokiko Asakura, Tatsuya Karasudani, Takuro Endo (July 2003). Species in Thermal Waters in Japan"Naegleria"Occurrence and Distribution of . J Eukaryot Microbiol 50: 514–5.  
  27. ^ Yasuo Sugita, Teruhiko Fujii, Itsurou Hayashi, Takachika Aoki, Toshirou Yokoyama, Minoru Morimatsu, Toshihide Fukuma, Yoshiaki Takamiya (May 1999). : An autopsy case in Japan"Naegleria fowleri"Primary amebic meningoencephalitis due to . Pathology International 49 (5): 468–70.  
  28. ^ Naegleria fowlerSouthern New Mexico web site article about some local hot springs, including a warning about
  29. ^ CDC description of acanthamoeba
  30. ^ Miyamoto H, Jitsurong S, Shiota R, Maruta K, Yoshida S, Yabuuchi E (1997). "Molecular determination of infection source of a sporadic Legionella pneumonia case associated with a hot spring bath". Microbiol. Immunol. 41 (3): 197–202.  
  31. ^ Eiko Yabauuchi, Kunio Agata (2004). "An outbreak of legionellosis in a new facility of hot spring Bath in Hiuga City". Kansenshogaku zasshi 78 (2): 90–8.  
  32. ^ Häring M, Rachel R, Peng X, Garrett RA, Prangishvili D (August 2005). "Ampullaviridae bottle-shaped virus, from a new family, the Acidianus"Viral diversity in hot springs of Pozzuoli, Italy, and characterization of a unique archaeal virus, . J. Virol. 79 (15): 9904–11.  
  33. ^ Spa: Belgium's healthy-living retreat, Gareth Bourne and Sarah Hajibagheri, The Independent, November 3, 2006
  34. ^ Jordan spring in Bad Oeynhausen (as of 10/18/2014)
  35. ^ Welcome Argentina: Turismo en Argentina 2009
  36. ^ Ravi Shanker, J.L. Thussu, J.M. Prasad (1987). "Geothermal studies at Tattapani hot spring area, Sarguja district, central India". Geothermics 16 (1): 61–76.  
  37. ^ D. Chandrasekharam, M.C. Antu (August 1995). "Geochemistry of Tattapani thermal springs, madhya Pradesh, India—field and experimental investigations". Geothermics 24 (4): 553–9.  
  38. ^ Miller R. R., W.L. Minckley, S.M. Norris. 2005. Freshwater Fishes of México. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Pp. I–XXV, 1–490.
  39. ^ WorldHeritage. Cyprinodon julimes. http://articles/Cyprinodon_julimes
  40. ^ Fahr-Becker, Gabriele (2001). Ryokan. p. 24.  

Further reading

  • Marjorie Gersh-Young (2011). Hot Springs and Hot Pools of the Southwest: Jayson Loam's Original Guide. Aqua Thermal Access.  
  • Marjorie Gersh-Young (2008). Hot Springs & Hot Pools Of The Northwest. Aqua Thermal Access.  
  • G. J Woodsworth (1999). Hot springs of Western Canada: a complete guide. West Vancouver: Gordon Soules.  
  • Clay Thompson (1-12-03). "Tonopah: It's Water Under The Bush". Arizona Republic. p. B12. 

External links

  • Thermal Springs List for the United States — 1,661 hot springs
  • "Geothermal Resources of the Great Artesian Basin, Australia" (PDF). GHC Bulletin 23 (2). June 2002. 
  • A scholarly paper with a map of over 20 geothermal areas in Uganda
  • List of 100 thermal hot springs and hot pools in New Zealand
  • List of hot springs worldwide
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