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The Hawaiian hot spot

The Hawaiian hot spot

The Hawaiian hot spot

  • Exhibition Text

    • A chain of 107 volcanoes – some islands, some submerged – extends from Hawaii to the northwest. This 6,000-kilometer-long chain begins with the still-submerged Loihi. Moving northwest, the volcanoes become progressively older. The chain forms as the Pacific plate creeps at 9 centimeters a year over a stationary hot spot in the mantle that has been providing magma for 80 million years.  The sharp bend records a shift in the plate’s direction of movement that took place 43 million years ago. 

      Lavas of Hawaii

      The Hawaiian lavas are mostly basalt. Basaltic rocks contain high proportions of calcium, magnesium, and iron relative to silicon. For this reason, the lavas are fluid, having the consistency of honey. Instead of erupting in great explosions as Mount St. Helens did, the lavas form slow-moving molten rivers.

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  • For Educators

    • Topic: Earth Science

      Subtopic: Volcanoes

      Keywords: Volcanoes--Hawaii, Plate tectonics, Geology, Structural, Volcanism, Volcanic eruptions

      Audience: General

In This Section

Aa Lava

Aa lava

Aa (pronounced “ah-ah”) lava is more solidified and flows sluggishly compared to its more fluid counterpart, pahoehoe.

Pahoehoe lava

Pahoehoe lava

Pahoehoe (“pah-hoy-hoy”) is a form of lava produced by hot, fluid magma. 

Spatter cone

Spatter Cone

A spatter cone is created when blobs of lava are thrown into the air from a single event.

Lava tree

Lava Tree

Lava may congeal around a tree to form a mold on the trunk and branches. 

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