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The Hawaii Hotspot

Waikiki Beach, a Hawaii hotspot.

Waikiki Beach isn’t the only Hawaii hotspot.

Did you come to this article thinking it’s about a new nightclub, popular restaurant or exciting attraction? Unfortunately, you’re not going to find it here. So what is this other type of Hawaii hotspot all about then?

What is the Hawaii Hotspot?

The Hawaii hotspot formed the Hawaiian Island Chain over the course of 70 million years.  The Hawaiian Islands have sat over what geologists have theorized as a geologic hotspot. Here, magna from the earth’s core has been pushing upwards, creating volcanic underwater seamounts and islands, such as Hawaii, over millions of years. But this hotspot not only created the Hawaiian Islands Chain, but many other islands throughout the Pacific.

The Hawaii hotspot has created areas like these in Hawaii.

Areas along the Chain of Craters Road.

The Idea of J. Tuzo Wilson

Canadian geologist J. Tuzo Wilson first proposed this theory in 1963. In it, he stated that forces have been moving the geologic plate in a northwesterly direction over this spot. As the plate moves over this volcanic hotspot, it has created a chain of undersea seamounts and islands. It stretches over 3,600 miles from the Aleutian Trench off the coast of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula to where Hawaii is today. Researchers call this chain of seamounts and islands the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamount Chain.

Originally, the Pacific plate was moving north while the hotspot created volcanic islands and seamounts along the way. Then 43 million years later, it took a westerly direction to where one can find the Hawaiian Island Chain today. So this is why the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamount Chain today has a wide “V” shaped configuration.

Over time, geologic forces have eroded away these islands and many now lay thousands of feet below the surface as seamounts. The tectonic plate moved from east to west. As a result, the seamounts, islets and islands that lay east are younger than those located west. This explains why the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, lying west of the 8 major Hawaiian Islands, are older. Over time, the relentless forces of erosion have reduced them into very small atolls or small rocky islets. Many are barely above the ocean surface. Further west, all that is left are underwater seamounts.

How it Affects the Future of Hawaii

The Hawaii hotspot foretells the future of the 8 major Hawaiian Islands. One day, millions of years into the future, they will ultimately suffer the same fate as the Northwestern Hawaii Islands. And they will slowly sink back into the Pacific Ocean. But at the same time, to the east of Hawaiian Islands, the Hawaii Hotspot is creating a new island.

Southeast of the Big Island of Hawaii, a new Hawaiian island, Loihi, has been forming over the last 400,000 years. It is still about 3,000 feet below the ocean. Scientists believe that this new Hawaiian island will rise above the surface sometime in the next 10,000 to 100,000 years.