Hawaiian Archipelago Map


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This chain of islands, or archipelago, developed as the Pacific Plate moved slowly northwestward over a hotspot in the Earth's mantle at a rate of approximately 32 miles (51 km) per million years. Thus, the southeast island is volcanically active, whereas the islands on the northwest end of the archipelago are older and typically smaller, due to longer exposure to erosion. The age of the archipelago has been estimated using potassium-argon dating methods. From this study and others, it is estimated that the northwesternmost island, Kure Atoll, is the oldest at approximately 28 million years (Ma); while the southeasternmost island, Hawaiʻi, is approximately 0. 4 Ma (400,000 years). The only active volcanism in the last 200 years has been on the southeastern island, Hawaiʻi, and on the submerged but growing volcano to the extreme southeast, Loʻihi. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory of the USGS documents recent volcanic activity and provides images and interpretations of the volcanism. Kīlauea has been erupting nearly continuously since 1983.