Hawaii's volcanoes revealed

IMAP 2809
Prepared in cooperation with the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center, the University of Hawai‘i, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
By: , and 



Hawaiian volcanoes typically evolve in four stages as volcanism waxes and wanes: (1) early alkalic, when volcanism originates on the deep sea floor; (2) shield, when roughly 95 percent of a volcano's volume is emplaced; (3) post-shield alkalic, when small-volume eruptions build scattered cones that thinly cap the shield-stage lavas; and (4) rejuvenated, when lavas of distinct chemistry erupt following a lengthy period of erosion and volcanic quiescence. During the early alkalic and shield stages, two or more elongate rift zones may develop as flanks of the volcano separate. Mantle-derived magma rises through a vertical conduit and is temporarily stored in a shallow summit reservoir from which magma may erupt within the summit region or be injected laterally into the rift zones. The ongoing activity at Kilauea's Pu?u ?O?o cone that began in January 1983 is one such rift-zone eruption. The rift zones commonly extend deep underwater, producing submarine eruptions of bulbous pillow lava.

Once a volcano has grown above sea level, subaerial eruptions produce lava flows of jagged, clinkery ?a?a or smooth, ropy pahoehoe. If the flows reach the ocean they are rapidly quenched by seawater and shatter, producing a steep blanket of unstable volcanic sediment that mantles the upper submarine slopes. Above sea level then, the volcanoes develop the classic shield profile of gentle lava-flow slopes, whereas below sea level slopes are substantially steeper. While the volcanoes grow rapidly during the shield stage, they may also collapse catastrophically, generating giant landslides and tsunami, or fail more gradually, forming slumps. Deformation and seismicity along Kilauea's south flank indicate that slumping is occurring there today.

Loading of the underlying Pacific Plate by the growing volcanic edifices causes subsidence, forming deep basins at the base of the volcanoes. Once volcanism wanes and lava flows no longer reach the ocean, the volcano continues to submerge, while erosion incises deep river valleys, such as those on the Island of Kaua?i. The edges of the submarine terraces that ring the islands, thus, mark paleocoastlines that are now as much as 2,000 m underwater, many of which are capped by drowned coral reefs.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Hawaii's volcanoes revealed
Series title IMAP
Series number 2809
DOI 10.3133/i2809
Year Published 2003
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Description Map: 38 x 25.03 inches; Bathymetry image: 24.54 x 18.96 inches
Country United States
State Hawai'i
Projection Mercator map projection
Scale 0
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details