What is a hotspot?


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What is a hotspot?

A volcanic "hotspot" is an area in the mantle from which heat rises as a thermal plume from deep in the Earth. High heat and lower pressure at the base of the lithosphere (tectonic plate) facilitates melting of the rock. This melt, called magma, rises through cracks and erupts to form volcanoes. As the tectonic plate moves over the stationary hot spot, the volcanoes are rafted away and new ones form in their place. This results in chains of volcanoes, such as the Hawaiian Islands.
For more on hotspots: http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/dynamic/hotspots.html 

Quicktime (6.02 MB)

Life of Hotspot Volcanic Island

This animation shows the evolution of a single island in a hotspot chain as it forms and evolves over a period of about 40 million years. It includes the initial eruption from the sea floor, construction of an enormous edifice, and final migration from the hotspot and erosion to form an atoll. Although it is on the WNW-moving Pacific plate, the plate motion won't be shown.
For more on Hawaiian Volcanoes:  http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2820, and additionally:  Volcano Watch Article
Modified from:

Moore, J. G., and Clague, D. A., 1992, Volcano growth and evolution of the island of Hawaii: Geological Society of America Bulletin, volume 104, p. 1471-1484.

Quicktime (7.15 MB)


Animations and videos are made in partnership with Earthscope, USGS, and Volcano Video & Graphics.

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