Hotspots and Mantle Plumes

Hotspots are anomalous areas of surface volcanism that cannot be directly

associated with plate tectonic processes. Many hotspots lie well within the

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interiors of plates; an example is the volcanism of the Hawaiian Islands.

Other hotspots lie at or near an ocean ridge, an example

is the volcanism that forms Iceland. Much more voluminous than normal

ocean ridge volcanism; this volcanism resulted in a thick oceanic crust and

the elevation of Iceland above sea level.

In many cases hotspots lie at the end of well-defined lines of volcanic

edifices or volcanic ridges. These are known as hotspot tracks. The hotspot

track associated with the Hawaiian hotspot is the Hawaiian–Emperor island–

seamount chain that extends across the Pacific plate to the Aleutian Islands.

There is little agreement on the total number of hotspots

The definition of a hotspot tends to be quite subjective, partic-

ularly with regard to volcanism on or adjacent to plate boundaries. Hotspots

occur both in the oceans and on the continents. They do not appear to be

uniformly distributed over the Earth’s surface.