A hot spring is a spring that is produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater from the Earth's crust. There are geothermal hot springs in many locations all over the crust of the earth.
|Grand Prismatic Spring and Midway Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park|
Sources of heat
The water issuing from a hot spring is heated by geothermal heat, i.e., heat 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.
Steam Crepuscular rays at Mammoth Hot Springs
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.