Geology of Hawaii reefs

By: , and 



The Hawaii hot spot lies in the mantle under, or just to the south of, the Big Island of Hawaii. Two active subaerial volcanoes and one active submarine volcano reveal its productivity. Centrally located on the Pacific Plate, the hot spot is the source of the Hawaii Island Archipelago and its northern arm, the Emperor Seamount Chain (Fig. 11.1).

This system of high volcanic islands and associated reefs, banks, atolls, sandy shoals, and seamounts spans over 30° of latitude across the Central and North Pacific Ocean to the Aleutian Trench, and contains at least 107 separate shield volcanoes (Clague and Dalrymple 1987). The trail of islands increases in age with distance from the hot spot (Fig. 11.2) and reflects the dynamic nature of the Pacific Plate, serving as a record of its speed and direction over the Hawaii hot spot for the last 75–80 MY (Clague and Dalrymple 1987). A major change in plate direction is marked by a northward kink in the chain at the end of the Hawaii Ridge approximately 3,500 km from the site of active volcanism (Moore 1987). On the basis of dredged basalts, Sharp and Clague (2006) assign an age of 50 Ma to this shift from northern to northwestern plate motion, thought to be a result of changes in the movement of neighboring plates to the west. Today the Pacific Plate migrates northwest at a rate of about 10 cm/year (Moore 1987).

Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Geology of Hawaii reefs
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-6847-8_11
Year Published 2008
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 53 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Title Coral reefs of the USA
First page 435
Last page 487
Country United States
State Hawaii