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Hawaii’s Volcanoes More Active: New Research Reveals The Reason

 

If you know me, you know I love volcanoes.  Maybe it’s the mystical connection of the old sacred ideas, maybe it’s because I am a little bit of a science geek, but news about our volcanoes always gets me excited.  Hawaii’s volcanoes are more active these days, and new research tells us why.

576px-SeaArchHawaii - photo by MECU

 

This fantastic picture is of a sea arch, where old lava flows have been washed away the by the sea, creating the arch. Mecu (MECU) took this picture on May 18, 2006 on his vacation to Hawaii. It is the Sea Arch near the flowing lava in Volcano’s National Park on the big island of Hawaii.

Hawaiʻi’s main volcano chains – the Loa and Kea trends – have distinct sources of magma and unique plumbing systems connecting them to the Earth’s deep mantle, according to research published this week in Nature Geoscience by scientists at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, University of British Columbia (UBC), and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Dramatic Increase In Volcano Activity

The results of this study also suggest that a recent dramatic increase in Hawaiian volcanism, as expressed by the existence of the Hawaiian islands and the giant Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes (which are higher than Mount Everest when measured from their underwater base), is related to a shift in the composition and structure of the source region of the Hawaiian mantle plume. Thus, this work shows, for the first time, that the chemistry of hotspot lavas is a novel and elegant probe of deep earth evolution.

Weis and UBC colleagues Mark Jellinek and James Scoates made the connection by careful fingerprinting of samples of Hawaiian island lavas – generated over the course of five million years – by isotopic analyses. Co-author and University of Massachusetts professor J. Michael Rhodes emphasized that the research included collecting 120 new samples from Mauna Loa, “the largest volcano on Earth,”

”Hawaiian volcanoes are the best studied in the world and yet we are continuing to make fundamental discoveries about how they work,” said co-author and UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) volcanologist Michael Garcia.

The next steps for the researchers will be to study the entire length of the Hawaiian chain (which provides lava samples ranging in age from five to 42 million years old) as well as other key oceanic islands to assess if the two trends can be traced further back in time and to strengthen the relationship between lavas and the composition of the deep mantle.

Friends who visit me in Hawaii soon learn of my love for volcanoes.  Everybody gets a trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

And we are all more likely to see some really spectacular shows, because Hawaii’s volcanoes are more acitve.

 

~~Aloha Nui Loa

 

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