Hawaii

Hawaii

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Credit: GARY HINCKS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Hawaii. Cross-section illustration of the geology of Big Island, Hawaii, USA. The islands in the Hawaiian chain were each formed in turn by the action of a stationary "hot spot", an unusually hot region in the Earth's mantle. The hot spot creates a reservoir of molten rock or magma (orange) that causes volcanic eruptions. Each island was initially an underwater seamount, like the one shown at left, before further eruptions built it up above sea level. Continental drift moves the tectonic plate over the mantle. Hawaii is currently above the hot spot, but as the tectonic plate carries it away it will become dormant like the rest of the islands in the chain.

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