Geologists have long assumed that the Hawaiian Islands owe their existence to a "hotspot" – stationary plumes of magma that rise from the Earths mantle to form Mauna Loa, Kilauea and Hawaiis other massive volcanoes. But a new study posted on the online version of the journal Science disputes that long-standing paradigm by concluding that the fixed hotspot in the Pacific was not stationary after all.
Map of part of the Pacific basin showing the volcanic trail of the Hawaiian hotspot-- 6,000-km-long Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamounts chain. (Base map reprinted by permission from World Ocean Floor by Bruce C. Heezen and Marie Tharp, Copyright 1977.)
"Our research suggests that the Hawaiian hotspot actually drifted southward between 47 and 81 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous to Early Tertiary," said David Scholl, consulting professor of geophysics at Stanford University and senior research scientist emeritus with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif. "This finding will break across a very cherished idea about how things work in the innards of the Earth."
Scholl is one of 11 co-authors of the study that appears in the July 24 edition of Science Express online (www.sciencexpress.org). The lead author is geophysicist John A. Tarduno of the University of Rochester, who earned a doctoral degree at Stanford in 1987. His principal collaborator is second author Robert A. Duncan of Oregon State University.
Mark Shwartz | EurekAlert!
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