Hotspot (geology)

In geology, the places known as hotspots or hot spots are volcanic regions thought to be fed by underlying mantle that is anomalously hot compared with the surrounding mantle. They may be on, near to, or far from tectonic plate boundaries. Currently, there are two hypotheses that attempt to explain their origins. One suggests that hotspots are due to mantle plumes that rise as thermal diapirs from the core–mantle boundary. The other hypothesis is that lithospheric extension permits the passive rising of melt from shallow depths. This hypothesis considers the term "hotspot" to be a misnomer, asserting that the mantle source beneath them is, in fact, not anomalously hot at all. Well known examples include Hawaii, Iceland and Yellowstone.

Hotspot(geology)-1.svg
Diagram showing a cross section though the Earth's lithosphere (in yellow) with magma rising from the mantle (in red)

Background

Partial melting asthenosphere EN.svg
Schematic diagram showing the physical processes inside the Earth that lead to the generation of magma. Partial melting begins above the fusion point.

The origins of the concept of hotspots lie in the work of J. Tuzo Wilson, who postulated in 1963 that the Hawaiian Islands result from the slow movement of a tectonic plate across a hot region beneath the surface. It was later postulated that hotspots are fed by narrow streams of hot mantle rising from the Earth's core–mantle boundary in a structure called a mantle plume. Whether or not such mantle plumes exist is currently the subject of a major controversy in Earth science. Estimates for the number of hotspots postulated to be fed by mantle plumes has ranged from about 20 to several thousands, over the years, with most geologists considering a few tens to exist. Hawaii, Réunion, Yellowstone, Galápagos, and Iceland are some of the currently most active volcanic regions to which the hypothesis is applied.

Most hotspot volcanoes are basaltic (e.g., Hawaii, Tahiti). As a result, they are less explosive than subduction zone volcanoes, in which water is trapped under the overriding plate. Where hotspots occur in continental regions, basaltic magma rises through the continental crust, which melts to form rhyolites. These rhyolites can form violent eruptions. For example, the Yellowstone Caldera was formed by some of the most powerful volcanic explosions in geologic history. However, when the rhyolite is completely erupted, it may be followed by eruptions of basaltic magma rising through the same lithospheric fissures (cracks in the lithosphere). An example of this activity is the Ilgachuz Range in British Columbia, which was created by an early complex series of trachyte and rhyolite eruptions, and late extrusion of a sequence of basaltic lava flows.

The hotspot hypothesis is now closely linked to the mantle plume hypothesis.

Comparison with island arc volcanoes

Hotspot volcanoes are considered to have a fundamentally different origin from island arc volcanoes. The latter form over subduction zones, at converging plate boundaries. When one oceanic plate meets another, the denser plate is forced downward into a deep ocean trench. This plate, as it is subducted, releases water into the base of the over-riding plate, and this water mixes with the rock, thus changing its composition causing some rock to melt and rise. It is this that fuels a chain of volcanoes, such as the Aleutian Islands, near Alaska.

Hotspot volcanic chains

Hawaii hotspot.jpg
Over millions of years, the Pacific Plate has moved over the Hawaii hotspot, creating a trail of underwater mountains that stretch across the Pacific
Puu Oo cropped.jpg
Kilauea is the most active shield volcano in the world. The volcano has erupted nonstop since 1983 and it is part of the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain.
Mauna Loa Volcano.jpg
Mauna Loa is a large shield volcano. Its last eruption was in 1984 and it is part of the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain.
Bowie Seamount1.jpg
Bowie Seamount is a dormant submarine volcano and it is part of the Kodiak-Bowie Seamount chain.
Axial Exaggerated Bathymetry.jpg
Axial Seamount is the youngest seamount of the Cobb–Eickelberg Seamount chain. Its last eruption was on 6 April 2011.
Mauna Kea from the ocean.jpg
Mauna Kea is the tallest volcano in the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain. It is currently dormant and it has cinder cones growing on the volcano.
Hual%C4%81lai 1996.jpg
Hualalai is a massive shield volcano in the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain. Its last eruption was in 1801.

The joint mantle plume/hotspot hypothesis envisages the feeder structures to be fixed relative to one another, with the continents and seafloor drifting overhead. The hypothesis thus predicts that time-progressive chains of volcanoes are developed on the surface. Examples are Yellowstone, which lies at the end of a chain of extinct calderas, which become progressively older to the west. Another example is the Hawaiian archipelago, where islands become progressively older and more deeply eroded to the northwest.

Geologists have tried to use hotspot volcanic chains to track the movement of the Earth's tectonic plates. This effort has been vexed by the lack of very long chains, by the fact that many are not time-progressive (e.g. the Galápagos) and by the fact that hotspots do not appear to be fixed relative to one another (e.g. Hawaii and Iceland.)

Postulated hotspot volcano chains

CourtHotspots.png
An example of mantle plume locations suggested by one recent group. Figure from Foulger (2010).

List of volcanic regions postulated to be hotspots

Hotspots-more.jpg
Distribution of hotspots in the list to the left, with the numbers corresponding to those in the list. The Afar hotspot is misplaced.

Eurasian Plate

  • Eifel hotspot (8)
    • 50°12′N 6°42′E / 50.2°N 6.7°E / 50.2; 6.7 (Eifel hotspot), w= 1 az= 082° ±8° rate= 12 ±2 mm/yr
  • Iceland hotspot (14)
    • 64°24′N 17°18′W / 64.4°N 17.3°W / 64.4; -17.3 (Iceland hotspot)
      • Eurasian Plate, w= .8 az= 075° ±10° rate= 5 ±3 mm/yr
      • North American Plate, w= .8 az= 287° ±10° rate= 15 ±5 mm/yr
    • Possibly related to the North Atlantic continental rifting (62 Ma), Greenland.
  • Azores hotspot (1)
    • 37°54′N 26°00′W / 37.9°N 26.0°W / 37.9; -26.0 (Azores hotspot)
      • Eurasian Plate, w= .5 az= 110° ±12°
      • North American Plate, w= .3 az= 280° ±15°
  • Jan Mayen hotspot (15)
    • 71°N 9°W / 71°N 9°W / 71; -9 (Jan Mayen hotspot)
  • Hainan hotspot (46)
    • 20°N 110°E / 20°N 110°E / 20; 110 (Hainan hotspot), az= 000° ±15°

African Plate

  • Mount Etna (47)
    • 37°45.304′N 14°59.715′E / 37.755067°N 14.995250°E / 37.755067; 14.995250 (Mount Etna)
  • Hoggar hotspot (13)
    • 23°18′N 5°36′E / 23.3°N 5.6°E / 23.3; 5.6 (Hoggar hotspot), w= .3 az= 046° ±12°
  • Tibesti hotspot (40)
    • 20°48′N 17°30′E / 20.8°N 17.5°E / 20.8; 17.5 (Tibesti hotspot), w= .2 az= 030° ±15°
  • Jebel Marra/Darfur hotspot (6)
    • 13°00′N 24°12′E / 13.0°N 24.2°E / 13.0; 24.2 (Darfur hotspot), w= .5 az= 045° ±8°
  • Afar hotspot (29, misplaced in map)
    • 7°00′N 39°30′E / 7.0°N 39.5°E / 7.0; 39.5 (Afar hotspot), w= .2 az= 030° ±15° rate= 16 ±8 mm/yr
    • Possibly related to the Afar Triple Junction, 30 Ma.
  • Cameroon hotspot (17)
    • 2°00′N 5°06′E / 2.0°N 5.1°E / 2.0; 5.1 (Cameroon hotspot), w= .3 az= 032° ±3° rate= 15 ±5 mm/yr
  • Madeira hotspot (48)
    • 32°36′N 17°18′W / 32.6°N 17.3°W / 32.6; -17.3 (Madeira hotspot), w= .3 az= 055° ±15° rate= 8 ±3 mm/yr
  • Canary hotspot (18)
    • 28°12′N 18°00′W / 28.2°N 18.0°W / 28.2; -18.0 (Canary hotspot), w= 1 az= 094° ±8° rate= 20 ±4 mm/yr
  • New England/Great Meteor hotspot (28)
    • 29°24′N 29°12′W / 29.4°N 29.2°W / 29.4; -29.2 (Great Meteor hotspot), w= .8 az= 040° ±10°
  • Cape Verde hotspot (19)
    • 16°00′N 24°00′W / 16.0°N 24.0°W / 16.0; -24.0 (Cape Verde hotspot), w= .2 az= 060° ±30°
  • St. Helena hotspot (34)
    • 16°30′S 9°30′W / 16.5°S 9.5°W / -16.5; -9.5 (St. Helena hotspot), w= 1 az= 078° ±5° rate= 20 ±3 mm/yr
  • Gough hotspot (49), at 40°19' S 9°56' W.
    • 40°18′S 10°00′E / 40.3°S 10°E / -40.3; 10 (Gough hotspot), w= .8 az= 079° ±5° rate= 18 ±3 mm/yr
  • Tristan hotspot (42), at 37°07′ S 12°17′ W.
    • 37°12′S 12°18′W / 37.2°S 12.3°W / -37.2; -12.3 (Tristan hotspot)
  • Vema hotspot (Vema Seamount, 43), at 31°38' S 8°20' E.
  • Discovery hotspot (50) (Discovery Seamounts)
    • 43°00′S 2°42′W / 43.0°S 2.7°W / -43.0; -2.7 (Discovery hotspot), w= 1 az= 068° ±3°
  • Bouvet hotspot (51)
    • 54°24′S 3°24′E / 54.4°S 3.4°E / -54.4; 3.4 (Bouvet hotspot)
  • Shona/Meteor hotspot (27)
    • 51°24′S 1°00′W / 51.4°S 1.0°W / -51.4; -1.0 (Shona hotspot), w= .3 az= 074° ±6°
  • Réunion hotspot (33)
    • 21°12′S 55°42′E / 21.2°S 55.7°E / -21.2; 55.7 (Réunion hotspot), w= .8 az= 047° ±10° rate= 40 ±10 mm/yr
    • Possibly related to the Deccan Traps (main events: 68.5–66 Ma)
  • Comoros hotspot (21)
    • 11°30′S 43°18′E / 11.5°S 43.3°E / -11.5; 43.3 (Comoros hotspot), w= .5 az=118 ±10° rate=35 ±10 mm/yr

Antarctic Plate

  • Marion hotspot (25)
    • 46°54′S 37°36′E / 46.9°S 37.6°E / -46.9; 37.6 (Marion hotspot), w= .5 az= 080° ±12°
  • Crozet hotspot (52)
    • 46°06′S 50°12′E / 46.1°S 50.2°E / -46.1; 50.2 (Crozet hotspot), w= .8 az= 109° ±10° rate= 25 ±13 mm/yr
    • Possibly related to the Karoo-Ferrar geologic province (183 Ma)
  • Kerguelen hotspot (20)
    • 49°36′S 69°00′E / 49.6°S 69.0°E / -49.6; 69.0 (Kerguelen hotspot), w= .2 az= 050° ±30° rate= 3 ±1 mm/yr
    • Île Saint-Paul and Île Amsterdam could be part of the Kerguelen hotspot trail (St. Paul is probably not another hotspot)
    • Related maybe to the Kerguelen Plateau (130 Ma)
  • Heard hotspot (53)
    • 53°06′S 73°30′E / 53.1°S 73.5°E / -53.1; 73.5 (Heard hotspot), w= .2 az= 030° ±20°
  • Balleny hotspot (2)
    • 67°36′S 164°48′E / 67.6°S 164.8°E / -67.6; 164.8 (Balleny hotspot), w= .2 az= 325° ±7°
  • Erebus hotspot (54)
    • 77°30′S 167°12′E / 77.5°S 167.2°E / -77.5; 167.2 (Erebus hotspot)

South American Plate

  • Trindade/Martin Vaz hotspot (41)
    • 20°30′S 28°48′W / 20.5°S 28.8°W / -20.5; -28.8 (Trindade hotspot), w= 1 az= 264° ±5°
  • Fernando hotspot (9)
    • 3°48′S 32°24′W / 3.8°S 32.4°W / -3.8; -32.4 (Fernando hotspot), w= 1 az= 266° ±7°
    • Possibly related to the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (c. 200 Ma)
  • Ascension hotspot (55)
    • 7°54′S 14°18′W / 7.9°S 14.3°W / -7.9; -14.3 (Ascension hotspot)

North American Plate

  • Bermuda hotspot (56)
    • 32°36′N 64°18′W / 32.6°N 64.3°W / 32.6; -64.3 (Bermuda hotspot), w= .3 az= 260° ±15°
  • Yellowstone hotspot (44)
    • 44°30′N 110°24′W / 44.5°N 110.4°W / 44.5; -110.4 (Yellowstone hotspot), w= .8 az= 235° ±5° rate= 26 ±5 mm/yr
    • Possibly related to the Columbia River Basalt Group (17–14 Ma).
  • Raton hotspot (32)
    • 36°48′N 104°06′W / 36.8°N 104.1°W / 36.8; -104.1 (Raton hotspot), w= 1 az= 240°±4° rate= 30 ±20 mm/yr
  • Anahim hotspot (45)
    • 52°54′0″N 123°44′0″W / 52.90000°N 123.73333°W / 52.90000; -123.73333 (Anahim hotspot) (Nazko Cone)

Indo-Australian Plate

  • Lord Howe hotspot (22)
    • 34°42′S 159°48′E / 34.7°S 159.8°E / -34.7; 159.8 (Lord Howe hotspot), w= .8 az= 351° ±10°
  • Tasmantid hotspot (39)
    • 40°24′S 155°30′E / 40.4°S 155.5°E / -40.4; 155.5 (Tasmanid hotspot), w= .8 az= 007° ±5° rate= 63 ±5 mm/yr
  • East Australia hotspot (30)
    • 40°48′S 146°00′E / 40.8°S 146.0°E / -40.8; 146.0 (East Australia hotspot), w= .3 az= 000° ±15° rate= 65 ±3 mm/yr

Nazca Plate

  • Juan Fernández hotspot (16)
    • 33°54′S 81°48′W / 33.9°S 81.8°W / -33.9; -81.8 (Juan Fernández hotspot), w= 1 az= 084° ±3° rate= 80 ±20 mm/yr
  • San Felix hotspot (36)
    • 26°24′S 80°06′W / 26.4°S 80.1°W / -26.4; -80.1 (San Felix hotspot), w= .3 az= 083° ±8°
  • Easter hotspot (7)
    • 26°24′S 106°30′W / 26.4°S 106.5°W / -26.4; -106.5 (Easter hotspot), w= 1 az= 087° ±3° rate= 95 ±5 mm/yr
  • Galápagos hotspot (10)
    • 0°24′S 91°36′W / 0.4°S 91.6°W / -0.4; -91.6 (Galápagos hotspot)
      • Nazca Plate, w= 1 az= 096° ±5° rate= 55 ±8 mm/yr
      • Cocos Plate, w= .5 az= 045° ±6°
    • Possibly related to the Caribbean large igneous province (main events: 95–88 Ma).

Pacific Plate

Kodiak-Bowie Seamounts.jpg
Over millions of years, the Pacific Plate has moved over the Bowie hotspot, creating the Kodiak-Bowie Seamount chain in the Gulf of Alaska
  • Louisville hotspot (23)
    • 53°36′S 140°36′W / 53.6°S 140.6°W / -53.6; -140.6 (Louisville hotspot), w= 1 az= 316° ±5° rate= 67 ±5 mm/yr
    • Possibly related to the Ontong Java Plateau (125–120 Ma).
  • Foundation hotspot (57)
    • 37°42′S 111°06′W / 37.7°S 111.1°W / -37.7; -111.1 (Foundation hotspot), w= 1 az= 292° ±3° rate= 80 ±6 mm/yr
  • Macdonald hotspot (24)
    • 29°00′S 140°18′W / 29.0°S 140.3°W / -29.0; -140.3 (Macdonald hotspot), w= 1 az= 289° ±6° rate= 105 ±10 mm/yr
  • North Austral/President Thiers (President Thiers Bank, 58)
    • 25°36′S 143°18′W / 25.6°S 143.3°W / -25.6; -143.3 (North Austral hotspot), w= (1.0) azim= 293° ± 3° rate= 75 ±15 mm/yr
  • Arago hotspot (Arago Seamount, 59)
    • 23°24′S 150°42′W / 23.4°S 150.7°W / -23.4; -150.7 (Arago hotspot), w= 1 azim= 296° ±4° rate= 120 ±20 mm/yr
  • Maria/Southern Cook hotspot (Îles Maria, 60)
    • 20°12′S 153°48′W / 20.2°S 153.8°W / -20.2; -153.8 (Maria/Southern Cook hotspot), w= 0.8 az= 300° ±4°
  • Samoa hotspot (35)
    • 14°30′S 168°12′W / 14.5°S 168.2°W / -14.5; -168.2 (Samoa hotspot), w= .8 az= 285°±5° rate= 95 ±20 mm/yr
  • Crough hotspot (Crough Seamount, 61)
    • 26°54′S 114°36′W / 26.9°S 114.6°W / -26.9; -114.6 (Crough hotspot), w= .8 az= 284° ± 2°
  • Pitcairn hotspot (31)
    • 25°24′S 129°18′W / 25.4°S 129.3°W / -25.4; -129.3 (Pitcairn hotspot), w= 1 az= 293° ±3° rate= 90 ±15 mm/yr
  • Society/Tahiti hotspot (38)
    • 18°12′S 148°24′W / 18.2°S 148.4°W / -18.2; -148.4 (Society hotspot), w= .8 az= 295°±5° rate= 109 ±10 mm/yr
  • Marquesas hotspot (26)
    • 10°30′S 139°00′W / 10.5°S 139.0°W / -10.5; -139.0 (Marquesas hotspot), w= .5 az= 319° ±8° rate= 93 ±7 mm/yr
  • Caroline hotspot (4)
    • 4°48′N 164°24′E / 4.8°N 164.4°E / 4.8; 164.4 (Caroline hotspot), w= 1 az= 289° ±4° rate= 135 ±20 mm/yr
  • Hawaii hotspot (12)
    • 19°00′N 155°12′W / 19.0°N 155.2°W / 19.0; -155.2 (Hawaii hotspot), w= 1 az= 304° ±3° rate= 92 ±3 mm/yr
    • Possibly related to the Siberian Traps (251–250 Ma).
  • Socorro/Revillagigedos hotspot (37)
    • 19°00′N 111°00′W / 19.0°N 111°W / 19.0; -111 (Socorro)
  • Guadalupe hotspot (11)
    • 27°42′N 114°30′W / 27.7°N 114.5°W / 27.7; -114.5 (Guadalupe hotspot), w= .8 az= 292° ±5° rate= 80 ±10 mm/yr
  • Cobb hotspot (5)
    • 46°00′N 130°06′W / 46.0°N 130.1°W / 46.0; -130.1 (Cobb hotspot), w= 1 az= 321° ±5° rate= 43 ±3 mm/yr
  • Bowie/Pratt-Welker hotspot (3)
    • 53°00′N 134°48′W / 53.0°N 134.8°W / 53.0; -134.8 (Bowie hotspot), w=.8 az= 306° ±4° rate= 40 ±20 mm/yr

Former hotspots

See also

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