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The Hawaiian Island chain contains eight major islands and numerous smaller ones, all formed by volcanic eruptions as the Pacific tectonic plate moved over a hot spot in the earth's crust. The hot spot (an underwater volcano) remained stationary but the plate kept moving in a southeasterly direction, each island forming separately. Kauai (on the extreme northwest) is the oldest; Hawaii (on the extreme southeast) is the youngest. So, these are islands not individual volcanoes.
On the island of Hawaii there are three major active volcanoes. They are Loihi, Kilauea, and Mauna Loa. They continually erupt, spewing forth lava and ash which flows across the countryside and into the sea. But, when we look at the lush paradise of the Hawaiian Islands, it's hard to think about a volcano's destructive power. What was once hard volcanic rock is now some of the richest, finest soil on earth. How did this happen?
The U. S. Geological Service states that
Volcanoes destroy and volcanoes create . . . More than 80 percent of the Earth's surface--above and below sea level--is of volcanic origin.
Over the countless ages of time, volcanoes erupted and formed layer upon layer of rock, ash, and volcanic sediment. Erosion worked on the material and broke it down into fine particles. Those particles contain rich minerals and nutrients that plants and animals depend upon to survive. Couple that with some of the world's greatest cumulative rainfall and it's easy to see why the Hawaiian Islands have some of the most fertile soil on earth.
Volcanoes and volcanism were and are essential to the earth's continued development. The power of volcanic eruptions is very unpredictable, incredibly powerful and destructive, and potentially lethal; it is both to be feared and revered. But if we learn to co-exist with the volatile forces of Mother Nature, we can live in somewhat of a relative security with her.
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