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.Examples include the Hawaii, Iceland and Yellowstone hotspots. A hotspot's position on the Earth's surface is independent of tectonic plate boundaries, and so hotspots may create a chain of volcanoes as the plates move above them.
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 alternative plate theory is that the mantle source beneath a hotspot is not anomalously hot, rather the crust above is unusually weak or thin, so that lithospheric extension permits the passive rising of melt from shallow depths.
The origins of the concept of hotspots lie in the work of J. Tuzo Wilson, who postulated in 1963 that the formation of the Hawaiian Islands resulted 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 the subject of a major controversy in Earth science.
At any place where volcanism is not linked to a constructive or destructive plate margin, the concept of a hotspot has been used to explain its origin. In a review article by Courtillot et al.listing possible hotspots, distinction is made between primary hotspots coming from deep within the mantle (possibly originating from the core/mantle boundary), creating large volcanic provinces with linear tracks (Easter Island, Iceland, Hawaii, Afar, Louisville, Reunion, Tristan confirmed, Galapagos, Kerguelen and Marquersas likely) and secondary hotspots derived from mantle plumes (Samoa, Tahiti, Cook, Pitcairn, Caroline, MacDonald confirmed, up to about 20 possible) at the upper/lower mantle boundary that do not form large volcanic provinces but form island chains. Other potential hotspots are the result of shallow mantle material surfacing in areas of lithospheric break-up caused by tension (and are thus a very different type of volcanism).
Estimates for the number of hotspots postulated to be fed by mantle plumes have ranged from about 20 to several thousand,[ citation needed ] with most geologists considering a few tens to exist. Hawaii, Réunion, Yellowstone, Galápagos, and Iceland are some of the 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.
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.
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).
In 2020, Wei et al. used seismic tomography to detect the oceanic plateau, formed about 100 million years ago by the hypothesized mantle plume head of the Hawaii-Emperor seamount chain, now subducted to a depth of 800 km under eastern Siberia.
A mantle plume is a proposed mechanism of convection within the Earth's mantle. Because the plume head partially melts on reaching shallow depths, a plume is often invoked as the cause of volcanic hotspots, such as Hawaii or Iceland, and large igneous provinces such as the Deccan and Siberian traps. Some such volcanic regions lie far from tectonic plate boundaries, while others represent unusually large-volume volcanism near plate boundaries.
The Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain is a mostly undersea mountain range in the Pacific Ocean that reaches above sea level in Hawaii. It is composed of the Hawaiian ridge, consisting of the islands of the Hawaiian chain northwest to Kure Atoll, and the Emperor Seamounts: together they form a vast underwater mountain region of islands and intervening seamounts, atolls, shallows, banks and reefs along a line trending southeast to northwest beneath the northern Pacific Ocean. The seamount chain, containing over 80 identified undersea volcanoes, stretches about 6,200 km (3,900 mi) from the Aleutian Trench in the far northwest Pacific to the Lōʻihi Seamount, the youngest volcano in the chain, which lies about 35 kilometres (22 mi) southeast of the Island of Hawaiʻi.
The Iceland hotspot is a hotspot which is partly responsible for the high volcanic activity which has formed the Iceland Plateau and the island of Iceland.
The Bermuda hotspot is a supposed midplate hotspot swell in the Atlantic Ocean 500-1000 km southeast of Bermuda, proposed to explain the extinct volcanoes of the Bermuda Rise as well as the Mississippi Embayment and the Sabine Uplift southwest of the Mississippi Embayment.
The Galápagos hotspot is a volcanic hotspot in the East Pacific Ocean responsible for the creation of the Galápagos Islands as well as three major aseismic ridge systems, Carnegie, Cocos and Malpelo which are on two tectonic plates. The hotspot is located near the Equator on the Nazca Plate not far from the divergent plate boundary with the Cocos Plate. The tectonic setting of the hotspot is complicated by the Galapagos Triple Junction of the Nazca and Cocos plates with the Pacific Plate. The movement of the plates over the hotspot is determined not solely by the spreading along the ridge but also by the relative motion between the Pacific Plate and the Cocos and Nazca Plates.
The New England hotspot, also referred to as the Great Meteor hotspot and sometimes the Monteregian hotspot, is a volcanic hotspot in the North Atlantic Ocean. It created the Monteregian Hills intrusions in Montreal and Montérégie, the White Mountains intrusions in New Hampshire, the New England and Corner Rise seamounts off the coast of North America, and the Seewarte Seamounts east of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge on the African Plate, the latter of which include its most recent eruptive center, the Great Meteor Seamount. The New England, Great Meteor, or Monteregian hotspot track has been used to estimate the movement of the North American Plate away from the African Plate from the early Cretaceous period to the present using the fixed hotspot reference frame.
The Cobb hotspot is a marine volcanic hotspot at, which is 460 km (290 mi) west of Oregon and Washington, North America, in the Pacific Ocean. Over geologic time, the Earth's surface has migrated with respect to the hotspot through plate tectonics, creating the Cobb-Eicklberg seamount chain. The hotspot is currently collocated with the Juan de Fuca Ridge.
The Hawai’i hotspot is a volcanic hotspot located near the namesake Hawaiian Islands, in the northern Pacific Ocean. One of the best known and intensively studied hotspots in the world, the Hawaii plume is responsible for the creation of the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain, a 6,200-kilometer (3,900 mi) mostly undersea volcanic mountain range. Four of these volcanoes are active, two are dormant; more than 123 are extinct, most now preserved as atolls or seamounts. The chain extends from south of the island of Hawaiʻi to the edge of the Aleutian Trench, near the eastern coast of Russia.
The Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR) is a mid-ocean ridge located along the floors of the south-west Indian Ocean and south-east Atlantic Ocean. A divergent tectonic plate boundary separating the Somali Plate to the north from the Antarctic Plate to the south, the SWIR is characterised by ultra-slow spreading rates combined with a fast lengthening of its axis between the two flanking triple junctions, Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean and Bouvet in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Pitcairn hotspot is a volcanic hotspot located in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Over the past 11 million years, it has formed the Pitcairn-Gambier hotspot chain. It is responsible for creating the Pitcairn Islands and two large seamounts named Adams and Bounty, as well as atolls at Moruroa, Fangataufa and the Gambier Islands. The hotspot is currently located at Adams and Bounty, which are ~60 kilometers East-Southeast of Pitcairn Island.
The Louisville hotspot is a volcanic hotspot responsible for the volcanic activity that has formed the Louisville Ridge in the southern Pacific Ocean.
The Marquesas hotspot is a volcanic hotspot in the southern Pacific Ocean. It is responsible for the creation of the Marquesas Islands – a group of eight main islands and several smaller ones – and a few seamounts. The islands and seamounts formed between 5.5 and 0.4 million years ago and constitute the northernmost volcanic chain in French Polynesia.
The Samoa hotspot is a volcanic hotspot located in the south Pacific Ocean. The hotspot model describes a hot upwelling plume of magma through the Earth's crust as an explanation of how volcanic islands are formed. The hotspot idea came from J. Tuzo Wilson in 1963 based on the Hawaii volcanic island chain.
The Macdonald hotspot is a volcanic hotspot in the southern Pacific Ocean. The hotspot was responsible for the formation of the Macdonald Seamount, and possibly the Austral-Cook Islands chain. It probably did not generate all of the volcanism in the Austral and Cook Islands as age data imply that several additional hotspots were needed to generate some volcanoes.
The Shona or Meteor hotspot is a volcanic hotspot located in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Its zig-zag-shaped hotspot track, a chain of seamounts and ridges, stretches from its current location at or near the southern end of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to South Africa.
Arago hotspot is a hotspot in the Pacific Ocean, presently located below the Arago seamount close to the island of Rurutu, French Polynesia.
Foundation Seamounts are a series of seamounts in the southern Pacific Ocean. Discovered in 1992, these seamounts form a 1,350 kilometres (840 mi) long chain which starts from the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge. Some of these seamounts may have once emerged from the ocean.
Musicians Seamounts are a chain of seamounts in the Pacific Ocean, north of the Hawaiian Ridge. There are about 65 seamounts, some of which are named after musicians. These seamounts exist in two chains, one of which has been attributed to a probably now-extinct hotspot called the Euterpe hotspot. Others may have formed in response to plate tectonics associated with the boundary between the Pacific Plate and the former Farallon Plate.
The plate theory is a model of volcanism that attributes all volcanic activity on Earth, even that which appears superficially to be anomalous, to the operation of plate tectonics. According to the plate theory, the principal cause of volcanism is extension of the lithosphere. Extension of the lithosphere is a function of the lithospheric stress field. The global distribution of volcanic activity at a given time reflects the contemporaneous lithospheric stress field, and changes in the spatial and temporal distribution of volcanoes reflect changes in the stress field. The main factors governing the evolution of the stress field are:
Intraplate volcanism is volcanism that takes place away from the margins of tectonic plates. Most volcanic activity takes place on plate margins, and there is broad consensus among geologists that this activity is explained well by the theory of plate tectonics. However, the origins of volcanic activity within plates remains controversial.
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