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The Geology Of The Big Island

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big island geology

The Geology of the Big Island of Hawaii: How It’s Still Growing and Shaping the Island’s Topography, History, and Geography

The Big Island of Hawaii is home to some of the most studied and well-known volcanic mountains on Earth, including Mauna Loa (the world’s largest volcano), Mauna Kea ( Hawai’i’s tallest mountain), and Kilauea (Hawai’i’s most active volcano).

The geology of the Big Island provides an excellent opportunity to study active volcanoes up close. In addition, the island contains a wealth of other geologic features, such as glacial deposits above 10,000 feet on Mauna Kea, huge submarine landslide deposits covering major portions of the island’s submarine slopes and surrounding seafloor, fault scarps along the flanks of Kilauea and Mauna Loa, coral and stony algal growth in the island’s subtropical coastal waters build incipient reef structures.

  • With its many volcanoes, it’s no wonder that the island has such a diverse and interesting geological history.
  • The Big Island of Hawaii is home to some of the most studied and well-known volcanic mountains on Earth, including Mauna Loa (the world’s largest volcano), Mauna Kea ( Hawai’i’ s tallest mountain), and Kilauea ( Hawai’i’s most active volcano).
  • Not only does the geology of the Big Island provide an excellent opportunity to study active volcanoes up close, but it also contains a wealth of other geologic features worth exploring, such as glacial deposits above 10,000 feet on Mauna Kea, huge submarine landslide deposits covering major portions of the island’s submarine slopes and surrounding seafloor, fault scarps abound along the flanks of Kilauea and Mauna Loa, coral and stony algal growth in the island’s subtropical coastal waters build incipient reef structures…the list goes on!
  • The result of all these different processes is a mid-ocean plate volcanic mountain-island complex that provides an

How Did the Big Island of Hawaii Form?

The geology of the Big Island of Hawaii is shaped by the movement of the Pacific Ocean floor over a hot spot. This has created a chain of islands that are now above water (shown in black in the reference image). The islands were formed as the crust of the ocean floor was cut off from the hot spot and carried away. The islands were eroded by the wind, rain, and waves and eventually sunk below sea level.

The age of the Big Island of Hawaii can be determined by measuring the amount of radioactive potassium and argon in the rock. The younger islands of the Big Island of Hawaii are Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe. The older islands of the Big Island of Hawaii are Suiko Seamount in the northern part of the chain, and Oahu and Kauai.

List of the Geological Features of the Big Island of Hawaii

1. Kona Coast

The Big Island of Hawaii is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in the state, including the Queens Theatre and Waimea Valley. Visitors to Hilo will never find themselves bored, with plenty of shopping options at the Kiholo Mall or nearby Hilo National Historic Site.

For those lucky enough to be visiting when a cruise ship is in port, don’t miss your chance to see it up close! The port is visited by ships nearly every day, providing ample opportunity to explore this beautiful part of Hawaii.

When planning your trip, keep in mind that accommodation can fill up quickly – especially during peak season (June thru September). To avoid being disappointed, it’s best to book your stay well in advance.

Finally, if you’re looking for convenience during your visit to Kona Coast, consider staying near downtown Hilo – this will give you easy access to all that the area has to offer!

  • This bustling city is home to some of the island’s most iconic landmarks, including the Queens Theatre and Waimea Valley.
  • You’ll never run out of things to do while in Hilo – whether you’re shopping at the lively Kiholo Mall or exploring nearby Hilo National Historic Site.
  • If a cruise ship is docking in Hilo, don’t miss your chance to see it up close! The port is visited by ships nearly every day, so there’s no shortage of opportunities to explore this beautiful part of Hawaii on land or water.
  • Whether you’re planning a short visit or a longer stay, make sure to book your accommodation in advance – especially during peak season (June thru September).
  • Don’t forget: When booking your trip to Kona Coast, consider staying near downtown Hilo – this will give you easy access to all the area has to offer!

2. Kohala Coast

The Kohala Coast is a unique and beautiful region that’s perfect for Adventurers who want to explore awe-inspiring landscapes.

Whether you’re traveling for leisure or tourism purposes, the Kohala Coast has something special waiting for you.

The landscape here is littered with towering mountains and pristine beaches, making this area a true paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

If you’re looking to take your vacation camping style, the Kohala Coast has everything you need! There are numerous recreational areas available where you can camp out under the stars while exploring these breathtaking landscapes firsthand.

With so much to see and do on this gorgeous coastline, there’s never been a better time to visit Hawaii!

  • This scenic region is home to a number of stunning volcanoes, making it an unforgettable destination for travelers.
  • The Kohala Coast is a unique and beautiful region that’s perfect for Adventurers who want to explore awe-inspiring landscapes.
  • Whether you’re traveling for leisure or tourism purposes, the Kohala Coast has something special waiting for you.
  • The landscape here is littered with towering mountains and pristine beaches, making this area a true paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • If you’re looking to take your vacation camping style, the Kohala Coast has everything you need! There are numerous recreational areas available where you can camp out under the stars while exploring these breathtaking landscapes firsthand.
  • With so much to see and do on this gorgeous coastline, there’s never been a better time to visit Hawaii!

3. Waimea Plains

The Waimea Plains are home to many endangered endemic plants and animals, and can only be accessed by guided tour. The scenic views make it perfect for hiking, biking, birdwatching, or just relaxing in nature. However, keep in mind that it takes around three hours to get there by car.

  • This undeveloped area is an agricultural reserve and home to many endangered endemic plants and animals. Access is only available by guided tour, so be sure to book ahead!
  • The Waimea Plains are perfect for hiking, biking, birdwatching, or just relaxing in nature. There’s even a picnic area where you can enjoy lunch while admiring the scenic views.
  • If you’re planning on driving here, be aware that it takes around 3 hours to get there – so make sure you have plenty of time spare!

4. Mauna Loa

The Big Island of Hawaii is home to both Mauna Loa, the world’s largest shield volcano, and Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth.

Visitors can easily see these two volcanoes from the park’s visitor center before driving out onto Crater Rim Drive.

The summit cabin at Mauna Loa is perfect for experienced mountaineers who want to backpack the 4,170-meter-high slope and spend a night there.

Don’t forget to check out Pele’s tears—wind-quenched lava drops that are named after Hawaiian god Pele.

  • This park contains both Mauna Loa, the world’s largest shield volcano, and Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth.
  • Visitors can easily see these two volcanoes from the park’s visitor center before driving out onto Crater Rim Drive.
  • The summit cabin at Mauna Loa is perfect for experienced mountaineers who want to backpack the 4,170-meter-high slope and spend a night there.
  • Don’t forget to check out Pele’s tears—wind-quenched lava drops that are named after Hawaiian god Pele.

5. Waianae Mountains

The Waianae Mountains offer stunning views of Waterfall Valley, the many valleys and volcanoes that make up the range, and more. Hiking trails in the area offer beautiful vistas not found anywhere else on Earth.

  • With its lush forests and cascading waterfalls, this range is sure to please.
  • The Waianae Mountains are made up of five separate mountains: Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualālai, Mauna Loa, and Kīlauea.
  • Each of these mountains has its own unique features and attractions that make it worth exploring.
  • The Waianae Mountains are located in southeast Hawaiʻi, just outside of Honolulu. You can easily access them by driving on Interstate H-3 or State Highway 1305.
  • This range offers stunning views no matter where you go; whether you’re viewing Waterfall Valley or gazing out at the many valleys and volcanoes that make up the range.
  • If hiking is your thing, be sure to check out some of the trails in the area—many offer beautiful vistas not found anywhere else on Earth!
  • To experience all that this amazing range has to offer, be sure to plan a trip soon—theWaianae Mountains are constantly changing with new eruptions and natural disasters happening throughout the year!

6. Hilo Volcanoes

The Hilo Volcanoes are a group of six active volcanoes on the southeastern island of Hawaii.

These volcanoes have a range of activity, from periodic explosive eruptions to slow-moving lava flows.

Over the years, these mountains have created an impressive landscape that is both visually stunning and seismically dangerous.

While volcanic activity at any given volcano is always unpredictable, visitors can explore all six Hilo Volcanoes without risk by visiting one of the park’s visitor centers.

  • The Hilo Volcanoes are a group of six active volcanoes on the southeastern island of Hawaii.
  • The range of activity for these volcanoes spans from periodic explosive eruptions to slow-moving lava flows.
  • Over the years, these mountains have created an impressive landscape that is both visually stunning and seismically dangerous.
  • While volcanic activity at any given volcano is always unpredictable, visitors can explore all six Hilo Volcanoes without risk by visiting one of the park’s visitor centers.
  • For any active volcano information, visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s website .

Big Island Facts

  • The island of Hawaii is still growing: Mauna Loa and Kīlauea are active volcanoes, so the island continues to grow.
  • Shield volcanoes: The five shield volcanoes that make up the island of Hawaiʻi.
  • Geological evidence from exposures of old surfaces: Geologists used exposure of old surfaces on the south and west flanks of Mauna Loa to propose that two ancient volcanic shields were all but buried by younger Mauna Loa.
  • The island has been growing: Between January 1983 and September 2002, lava flows added 543 acres (220 ha) to the island.
  • Lava flowing from Kīlauea has destroyed several towns: Kapoho in 1960 and again in 2018, Kalapana and Kaimū in 1990.
  • In 1987 lava filled in “Queen’s Bath”: Queen’s Bath was a large, L-shaped freshwater pool that was filled with lava after the eruption of 1987.
  • There are seven volcanoes on the island which include Māhukona and Kamaʻehuakanaloa (formerly Lōʻihi): This makes Haleakala an example of a composite volcano .
  • Approximately 22 miles southeast of Hawaii lies the undersea volcano known as Kamaʻehuakanaloa: It is an erupting seamount that now reaches approximately 3,200 feet (980 m) below the surface of the ocean
  • Kamaʻehuakanaloa is a volcano that is likely to break the surface of the ocean in 10,000-100,000 years.
  • The Hilina Slump movement on 29 November 1975 caused a tsunami that killed 46 people and damaged many villages.
  • Activity at Kamaʻehuakanaloa will likely cause it to break the surface of the ocean sometime between 10,000 and 100,000 years from now.
  • The island has experienced multiple tsunamis: Haleakala has experienced two major tsunamis, one in 1946 and another in 2011.
  • The island was badly damaged by both earthquakes: Halape was severely damaged by the 1946 earthquake, and downtown Hilo was severely damaged by the 1960 earthquake.
  • Damage from tsunami is common: Tsunami damage is common off the east coast of Japan .
  • Damage from tsunami can be extensive: In March 2011, a 9 magnitude earthquake off the east coast of Japan created a tsunami that caused minor damage in Hawaii .
  • Earthquake warnings: Officials issued evacuation warnings for the area around Kīlauea’s East rift zone in May 2018 due to small earthquakes.
  • Volcanic activity: There has been an increase in volcanic activity since early 2014, when Puʻu ʻŌʻō began erupting .
  • The East rift zone is a dangerous place: The East rift zone is one of the most dangerous places on Earth because of its proximity to the population and infrastructure.
  • The eruption of Haleakala is a big news story: This event has caught the attention of many people.
  • The volcano is erupting again and it’s something to worry about: People are worried about what this means for the future of Haleakala.
  • There are safety precautions that need to be taken in case of an eruption: People should take safety precautions in case of an eruption, such as staying away from the volcano.
  • Shield volcanoes: The island of Hawaii is made from five separate shield volcanoes that erupted somewhat sequentially.
  • Geologists now consider “outcrops” to be part of the earlier building of Mauna Loa: Exposure of old surfaces on the south and west flanks of Mauna Loa led to the proposal that two ancient volcanic shields (named Ninole and Kulani) were all but buried by the younger Mauna Loa.
  • The island is still growing: Because Mauna Loa and Kīlauea are active volcanoes, the island continues to grow.
  • Lava flowing from Kīlauea has destroyed several towns, including Kapoho in 1960 and again in 2018, and Kalapana and Kaimū in 1990. In 1987 lava filled in “Queen’s Bath”, a large, L-shaped, freshwater pool in the Kalapana area. [15] Another 875 acres were added between May to July, 2018 by the 2018 lower Puna eruption . [16] [17]
  • Geologists count seven volcanoes as building the island: The geologistscountsevenvolcanoesasbuildingtheislandincludingthesubmarinevolcanoMāhukonaandKamaʻehuakanaloa(formerlyLōʻihi)aspartsofthebaseoftheisland.
  • Māhukona off northwest corner of island has already disappeared below surface of ocean: Approximately 22 miles (35 km) southeast of Hawaii lies the undersea volcano known as Kamaʻehuakanaloa. It is an erupting seamount that now reaches approximately 3200 feet (980 m) below the surface of the ocean.
  • Kamaʻehuakanaloa: Kamaʻehuakanaloa is an erupting seamount that now reaches approximately 3200 feet (980 m) below the surface of the ocean.
  • Threat to the environment: If current rates of activity at Kamaʻaʻehuakanaloa are not stopped, it will break the surface of the ocean and cause major damage to the environment.
  • A tsunami could occur: The Hilina Slump movement in 1975 caused a tsunami that killed 46 people.
  • Threat to human life: The slope movement in 1975 also threatened human lives, as it slid 26 feet (7.9 m) toward the ocean
  • Island suffers from earthquakes: The island of Hawaii has suffered from a number of earthquakes in the past.
  • Damage caused by tsunami: The island has suffered damage from tsunamis in the past.
  • Damage caused by earthquake in Japan: The 2011 earthquake off the east coast of Japan created a tsunami that damaged public buildings on Hawaii Island.
  • Earthquakes: Hundreds of small earthquakes have been detected on Kīlauea’s East rift zone, leading officials to issue evacuation warnings.
  • Evacuation warnings: Officials are warning the public to evacuate because of the danger posed by the earthquakes.

What is the History of the Big Island of Hawaii?

The Big Island of Hawaii is the youngest island in the Hawaiian chain. It is located in a geologic hot spot, which causes frequent volcanic eruptions. The island has five volcanoes, which are considered dormant. The Hualalai eruption pattern is similar to that of the Hawaiian Islands.

The Big Island has undergone many transformations over time, from a harsh, uninhabitable landscape to a place where life spreads its seeds. The transformation of the Big Island is due to the continuous activity of a mantle plume. Even if humans do not exist in the future, the Big Island will still undergo transformations due to the activity of mantle plumes.

How has the Geology of the Big Island of Hawaii Affected its Topography, History, and Geography?

The geology of the Big Island of Hawaii has had a major impact on its topography, history, and geography. The Hawaiian Islands were formed as the result of the collision of two large tectonic plates. The resulting volcanoes have created lava that flows into the ocean, which has resulted in the island’s unique topography. The different types of vegetation on the island are a result of the different geology.

 

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