The Hawaii hotspot is a volcanic hotspot located near the namesake Hawaiian Islands, in the northern Pacific Ocean. One of the most well-known and heavily studied hotspots in the world, the Hawaii plume is responsible for the creation of the Hawaiian – Emperor seamount chain, an over 5,800 kilometres (3,600 mi) long chain of volcanoes, four of which are active, two of which are dormant, and more than 123 of which are extinct, many having since been ground beneath the waves by erosion as seamounts and atolls. The chain extends from south of the island of Hawaiʻi to the edge of the Aleutian Trench, near the eastern edge of Russia. While most volcanoes are created by geological activity at tectonic plate boundaries, the Hawaii hotspot is located far from nearby plate boundaries; the classic hotspot theory, first proposed in 1963 by John Tuzo Wilson, proposes that a single, fixed mantle plume builds volcanoes that then, cut off from their source by the movement of the Pacific Plate, become increasingly inactive and eventually erode below sea level over millions of years. According to this theory, the nearly 60° bend separating the Emperor and Hawaiian segments of the chain was caused by a sudden shift in the movement of the Pacific Plate. In 2003, fresh investigations of this irregularity led to the proposal of a mobile hotspot theory, suggesting that hotspots are mobile, not fixed, and that the 47 million year old bend was caused by a shift in the hotspot's motion rather than the plate's.
Ancient Hawaiians were the first to recognize the increasing age and weathered state of the volcanoes to the north as they progressed on fishing expeditions along the islands. The volatile state of the Hawaiian volcanoes and their constant battle with the sea was a major element in Hawaiian mythology, embodied in Pele, the deity of volcanoes. After the arrival of Europeans on the island, in 1880-1881 James Dwight Dana directed the first formal geological study of the hotspot's volcanics, confirming the relationship long observed by the natives. 1912 marked the founding of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory by volcanologist Thomas Jaggar, initiating continuous scientific observation of the islands. In the 1970s, a mapping project was initiated to gain more information about the complex geology of Hawaii's seafloor.
The hotspot has since been tomographically imaged, showing it to be 500 to 600 km (310 to 370 mi) wide and up to 2,000 km (1,200 mi) deep, and olivine and garnet-based studies have shown its magma chamber is approximately 1,500 °C (2,730 °F). In its at least 85 million years of activity the hotspot has produced an estimated 750,000 km3 (180,000 cu mi) of rock. The chain's rate of drift has slowly increased over time, causing the amount of time each individual volcano is active to decrease, from 18 million years for the 76 million year old Detroit Seamount, to just under 900,000 for the one million year-old Kohala; on the other hand, eruptive volume has increased from 0.01 km3 (0.002 cu mi) per year to about 0.21 km3 (0.050 cu mi). Overall, this has caused a trend towards more active but quickly-silenced, closely spaced volcanoes—whereas volcanoes on the near side of the hotspot overlap each other (forming such superstructures as Hawaiʻi island and the ancient Maui Nui), the oldest of the Emperor seamounts are spaced as far as 200 km (120 mi) apart.
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Famous quotes containing the word hawaii:
“A fallen tree does not rise again.”
—Hawaiian saying no. 2412, lelo NoEau, collected, translated, and annotated by Mary Kawena Pukui, Bishop Museum Press, Hawaii (1983)