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Geology
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Generalized Geologic Map of the Conterminous United States
North America Shaded Relief
 

Article

  The North American Tapestry of Time and Terrain

Introduction
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Legend and Rock Ages
Rock Types
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  Features
 

Hawaiian Islands

 

Close-up of
 the Hawaiian Islands Hawaii, like Yellowstone, lies above a unique geologic structure called a hotspot. This hotspot is a plume of magma that pushes up from the mantle through the crust of the Pacific plate, creating a volcano. The plate has been moving over this hotspot, so a series of volcanoes have grown and died. Some of those volcanoes are tall enough to poke out of the water, creating Hawaii's chain of islands. Currently, the hotspot is situated under the big island of Hawai'i where the volcanos Kilauea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai are active.

The lava at these volcanoes is basaltic in composition, meaning it is relatively low in silica and highly viscous. These properties mean that as the lava has erupted, it has accumulated to form smooth, dome-shaped shield volcanoes.

 

Photograph of lava flows on Kilauea, Hawaii.
This photograph shows lava flows on Kilauea. Taken by J.D. Griggs in 1990, it can be found with other photos and more information at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Web site.