Hawaii's Fascinating Volcanoes
The Creators of Paradise!
Want to take a walk through paradise? Well here you are. Look around you. Take in the warm, fresh air. Take in the beautiful ocean. There's no place on earth quite like Hawaii. But do you know what serves as the foundation for Hawaii's beauty? I'll give you a hint: they can be breathtaking, yet terrifying. Volcanoes are the framework for this magical land. These volcanoes formation is astounding, and they are filled with amazing features and exciting eruptions. Well, come along for the ride...it's time to learn about Hawaii's captivating volcanoes!
One of the most interesting things about Hawaii's volcanoes is how they formed. If you think that snails are slow, think about this. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Hawaiian Islands started forming 70 million years ago. Talk about a snail's pace! Each island contains one or more volcanoes and Maryann Dobeck, author of Volcanoes Nature's Awesome Power, says that each island was formed at a hot spot. A hot spot is basically what it sounds like. It is an area of extremely hot rock deep in the Earth's mantle. At this spot, a column of magma burns a hole in a tectonic plate, and when the magma cools on the Earth's surface, it forms a volcano. What's so unique about the Hawaiian Volcanoes is that after one "hot spot" volcano forms, then the tectonic plate moves. This allows the hot spot to create another volcano. As this continues over time, what do you think will happen? You guessed it, a chain of volcanoes begins to form. As a result, the U.S. Geological Survey states that Hawaii is currently home to five major volcanoes: Lo'ihi, Kilauea, Maunoa Loa, Hulalai, and Haleakala among several smaller volcanoes. Talk about an explosive environment!
Boom, crackle, pop...eruptions! The eruptions are one of the most amazing things about Hawaii’s volcanoes. What pops into your head when you think of volcanoes erupting? Explosions? Lava flying everywhere? Well, Hawaii volcanoes flow very calmly. The reason for that is there is not a lot of pyroclastic material in the magma. According to Dobeck, when there is a lot of gas in the magma, the pressure of the gas sends rock fragments (pyroclastic material) flying through the air. The more gas, the more explosive the eruption will be. Picture a water fountain spraying water up into the air. This is similar to what happens when a Hawaiian volcano erupts; it shoots up into the air like a fountain creating a stunning sight (Dr. Vic Camp, San Diego State University). Because of that when the lava flows down the volcano, it hardens and forms a gigantic wide and flat volcano. This type of volcano has come to be called a shield volcano because it looks like a warrior's shield. It’s amazing what a little magma can do!
What is the largest volcano in the history of the United States? Hawaii’s Mauna Loa. This volcano is one that is compared to the unbelievably large volcanoes on Mars. Mauna Loa is 60 miles high and 30 miles wide. Mauna Loa from sea level is around 13,680 feet tall. That’s one giant volcano!
Another interesting Hawaiian volcano is Hualalai. According to Ken Rubin and Brandon Doo, the authors of “Hawaii Center for Volcanology,” the Hualalai volcano is a shield volcano located on the big island of Hawaii. Its last eruption was in the 1800’s. Although it has been 200 hundred years since the last eruption of Hualalai, it will almost certainly erupt again ( Hawaii Center). This volcano is no slouch either. It stands a whopping 2,523m above sea level-which is like 841 school buses!
When you think of volcanic eruptions, you probably think they come and go, done and over with. But in Hawaii, there has been a volcano that has been erupting for 31 straight years...Kilauea. According to Volcanic History of Kilauea, the current eruption of Kilauea started erupting in 1983 and is still erupting today. Because of that, the Kilauea volcano is known as the Pu’u ‘O’o eruption. Kilauea is 1227 meters long (4025 feet). The Kilauea volcano is just under 4190 feet high. The Kilauea volcano shares hot spots with Mauna Loa and Loihi. Is is one of the most active volcanoes on earth.
So the next time you are in paradise, maybe you will take in more than just the warm fresh air and beautiful ocean. Maybe you’ll take a moment to appreciate the foundation for Hawaii’s beauty: the historic volcanoes that have formed over millions of years and whose eruptions continue to change the landscape of the Northern Pacific Ocean. Hawaii...a truly magical place.
1. Dobeck, Maryann. Volcanoe's Nature's Awesome Power. New York: Benchmark Education, 2005.
2. "Hawaiian Volcanoes - Introduction." 2008. 27 Jan. 2014 <http://volcano.oregonstate.edu/education/hawaii/intro/intro.html>
3. "Hawaiian Volcanoes - USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory." 27 Jan. 2014
4. "How Volcanoes Work - Hawaiian eruptions." 30 Jan. 2014 <http://www.geology.sdsu.edu/how_volcanoes_work/Hawaiian.html>
5."The Formation of the Hawaiian Islands - SOEST." 27 Jan. 2014 <http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/GG/HCV/haw_formation.html>
6. "What's Going on With the Volcano? - Hawai'i Volcanoes National ..." 2007. 29 Jan. 2014 <http://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/lava2.htm>