Geology

Carved from the Surface

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Science  21 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5845, pp. 1653
DOI: 10.1126/science.317.5845.1653a

Hawaii is sometimes referred to as Earth's greatest mountain because its height above the seafloor exceeds the height of Mt. Everest above the plains of India. Recent work has identified several huge submarine slides extending off of several of the Hawaiian islands, and the large-scale topography of these islands, including underwater features, in part reflects the feedback between growth of the islands by volcanism and this mass wasting. Lamb et al. argue that these slides may trigger some of the more dramatic smaller topographic features found in some of the wetter parts of the islands, specifically, amphitheaters containing a series of large waterfalls. They show that waterfalls can drill into the Hawaiian basalt at a rate sufficient to cut these amphitheaters from a cliff produced by a slump in a few hundred thousand years. An alternative model has been that erosion from groundwater seepage or springs produced these features, and that this process may have produced similar features on Mars, but the rates of spring flow and other features seem insufficient to have produced the observed features on Hawaii. — BH

Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 119, 805 (2007).

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