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Relationship between subsidence and volcanic load, Hawaii


A computer analysis of tide-gage records in the northeast Pacific indicates that the active volcanic islands of eastern Hawaii are subsiding at a rate considerably faster than the eustatic rise of sea level. The rate of absolute subsidence increases progressively toward the center of current activity on the Island of Hawaii. Honolulu, Oahu, appears to be stable; Kahului, Maui, is subsiding at 1.7 mm per year; and Hilo, Hawaii, is subsiding at 4.8 mm per year. This subsidence is apparently related to downbowing of the crust throughout a zone 400 km in diameter by the weight of volcanic material added to the crust by active volcanoes, principally Mauna Loa and Kilauea on the Island of Hawaii. The Hawaiian Arch encircles the subsiding zone and may be uplifted by material moving down and outward from the zone of subsidence.

The annual volume of subsidence is about 270×106 m3, whereas the average annual volume of erupted basalt on the Island of Hawaii (based on historic records back to about 1820) is about 50×106 m3. The great excess of subsidence over volcanic addition cannot be reconciled by isostatic models, and is apparently the result of other processes operating in the volcano and its basement thet are poorly understood. Probably the more important of these processes are intrusions and submarine volcanism, both of which are providing additional unseen load on the volcanoes. Furthermore, the rate of eruption may be uplifted by material moving down and outward from the zone of subsidence may be overestimated due to localized downslope movement of the margins of the islands.

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Publication authorized by the Director, U. S. Geological Survey. Paper read at the Symposium «Volcanoes and Their Roots », Oxford, England, Sept. 1969.

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Moore, J.G. Relationship between subsidence and volcanic load, Hawaii. Bull Volcanol 34, 562–576 (1970).

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  • Tide Gage
  • Mantle Material
  • Annual Volume
  • Kilauea Volcano
  • Volcanic Pile