Hawaii's 'hot spot': It makes volcanoes and islands

Born of volcanoes, Hawaii is a place where spectacular beauty rises from intense geophysical forces that have played ...

Posted: May 9, 2018 8:57 AM
Updated: May 9, 2018 8:57 AM

Born of volcanoes, Hawaii is a place where spectacular beauty rises from intense geophysical forces that have played out over millions of years.

What's behind this spring's eruption of the Kilauea volcano?

Tectonic plates: They make things interesting

The outer shell of the Earth is comprised of different "plates" that are rigid and in constant motion.

The movement of the plates leads to earthquakes and volcanoes -- mainly near boundaries where the plates push against and rub against one another.

Volcanoes and earthquakes often create new land forms, such as mountains and ocean trenches.

What is the Hawaii 'hot spot'?

If you pictured the Earth as an orange, the crust is akin to a very thin part of the peel.

Beneath the hard layer of rock is a layer called the mantle. It is the zone of earth just above the core. The mantle is made of minerals, denser than what's in the crust, said Erik Klemetti, a volcanologist, blogger and associate professor at Denison University in Ohio.

A hot spot is the point where a plume of magma -- molten rock -- is protruding through the upper levels of the crust. The plate is on the outermost layer of the crust and moves over the hot spot. And then what happens?

And how does that create volcanoes -- and islands?

The hot spot -- basically, a pressure pimple in the Earth's mantle -- erupts and produces magma, which pushes up and through the surface to form volcanoes.

Once the resulting lava cools, it is essentially new land.

It can be quite fertile and make great farmland.

But it can have unfortunate impact on people who live in the shadow of a volcano. By Tuesday, 35 structures -- including at least 26 homes -- had been destroyed in the Kilauea eruption.

"This is potentially one of these disasters that is a long time unfolding," said Klemetti.

Why is the Big Island the biggest?

For Hawaii's western islands, the action played out millions of years ago. Their volcanoes are dormant.

And while they remain stunningly beautiful, there's just a little less of them to enjoy.

That's because waves, winds, landslides and erosion have since taken their toll.

Because the Big Island is younger and growing, those forces haven't whittled much of it away.

At least 4 active volcanoes

The Big Island has at least four active volcanoes, with Kilauea leading the way.

"Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843, with the most recent eruption in 1984," the US Geological Survey reports. "Loihi, the submarine volcano located off the south coast of Kilauea, erupted most recently in 1996."

Hualalai has erupted three times over 1,000 years.

So is the Big Island getting bigger (right now)?

Kilauea, the youngest and most active on the island, likes making news.

It has been erupting almost continuously along its East Rift Zone since 1983, according to the US Geological Survey.

The result has been a whole lotta lava that's spilled into the Pacific Ocean.

Klemetti, who visited the island in 2013, said it may take some time for the flow from this eruption to reach the water. For now, "This is just making the island taller."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 31376

Reported Deaths: 1976
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9132533
Lake3260167
Cass15816
Allen124065
St. Joseph115534
Hendricks111765
Hamilton109691
Johnson1080104
Elkhart99127
Madison58058
Bartholomew47433
Porter47321
Clark45338
LaPorte39921
Tippecanoe3693
Jackson3591
Delaware34933
Howard34517
Hancock31727
Shelby31221
Floyd31238
Boone28135
Morgan25824
Vanderburgh2422
Decatur22231
White2218
Montgomery22116
Clinton2081
Harrison18421
Noble18120
Grant18120
Dubois1782
Greene16723
Warrick16426
Dearborn16221
Monroe15810
Henry1566
Lawrence14222
Vigo1417
Miami1371
Putnam1317
Jennings1264
Orange12422
Scott1163
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Carroll912
Daviess8116
Steuben792
Kosciusko781
Newton7410
Wabash722
Wayne695
Marshall641
Fayette634
LaGrange602
Jasper541
Washington521
Fulton461
Rush452
Jay430
Jefferson411
Clay391
Pulaski390
Randolph383
Whitley342
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
Owen311
DeKalb281
Knox240
Benton240
Crawford230
Perry230
Huntington222
Tipton221
Wells220
Blackford201
Switzerland190
Fountain172
Posey170
Parke170
Spencer141
Gibson132
Ohio130
Adams121
Warren121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0152

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 31911

Reported Deaths: 1969
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin5188228
Cuyahoga3927209
Marion261721
Hamilton2403128
Lucas2107229
Pickaway204235
Mahoning1334169
Summit1220159
Butler77625
Stark68289
Lorain64158
Montgomery59315
Trumbull52542
Columbiana47850
Belmont38412
Miami34830
Warren32819
Tuscarawas3122
Portage31058
Delaware29613
Medina28819
Ashtabula27732
Wood27445
Lake26711
Geauga25629
Wayne24850
Fairfield2403
Clark2066
Licking20410
Allen18931
Mercer1843
Richland1833
Clermont1815
Erie1555
Darke15116
Madison1337
Washington11718
Morrow1041
Crawford1043
Greene935
Ottawa907
Putnam8514
Monroe7111
Hocking654
Sandusky6510
Ross632
Jefferson622
Auglaize593
Huron521
Williams511
Hancock481
Muskingum450
Union430
Clinton430
Hardin400
Shelby402
Logan370
Wyandot362
Fulton360
Fayette340
Defiance322
Preble311
Guernsey310
Lawrence280
Carroll282
Champaign261
Holmes251
Brown241
Coshocton240
Knox231
Vinton190
Perry181
Highland181
Seneca182
Ashland170
Scioto150
Henry140
Athens141
Paulding130
Jackson110
Harrison100
Adams81
Gallia71
Pike60
Meigs60
Morgan50
Noble50
Van Wert50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 87°
Angola
Few Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 85°
Huntington
Broken Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 84°
Decatur
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 87°
Van Wert
Broken Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 83°
Few PM Storms Memorial Day
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events