Hot spot forms the Hawaiian islands

Hot spot forms the Hawaiian islands

. A hot spot that is anchored deep within the Earth has recently fed molten lava through a long pipe to Mauna Loa on the big island of Hawaii (left). The moving Pacific Plate has carried three other volcanic islands away from the hot spot; these extinct volcanoes are shown in the accompanying radar image obtained from the Space Shuttle (right). As the plate moves on, wind and water erodes the peaks, reducing the older ones to sunken islands known as seamounts. An underwater volcano, named Loihi, is now forming over the hot spot; it should rise above the ocean to become another Hawaiian island in about 50 thousand years.

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University