Dynamic Volcanic Wonders
In our last post we discussed YouTubes where we access almost unlimited information on the wonders of animal life on our planet. In this post we highlight another recent planetary phenomenon—the regular onset of dynamic volcanism occurring in our 50th state, Hawaii. In recent weeks Mauna Loa has awakened from one of its frequent rest states. It is periodically active as are many Hawaiian volcanoes.
In one of our early posts we spoke about “Dynamic Planet Earth.” Linked below is our 2008 post:
In the above post we referred to volcanoes as an example of Earth’s dynamic processes. The term dynamic conveys forceful, powerful, and energetic. In the past few weeks, news of a recent volcano eruption on the Big Island of Hawaii has been widely publicized. We searched for YouTube entries and research articles on Hawaiian volcanoes and volcanoes in general. The Hawaiian Islands were formed by a succession of undersea volcanic eruptions. The archipelago was formed within a huge tectonic plate, the Pacific Plate, an irregular-shaped chunk of the Earth’s crust sliding horizontally over a “hot spot.” The moving crust resembled a “conveyor belt” as it received intermittent surges of molten magma rising from hot spots far beneath the surface in the rock mantle. The Hawaiian Islands archipelago originated in this manner over a few million years.
Shortly after the mid-20th century, theorists proposed that crustal plates migrated over layers of the rock mantle. This idea was described initially as “continental drift” and later became known as “plate tectonics.” Alfred Wegener in the early 20th century first proposed the revolutionary idea that sections of Earth’s crust moved slowly over the planetary surface. At the time he did not fully understand what caused sections of our planet’s continents to “drift.”
In the 1960s I first became aware of the nascent theory of plate tectonics—a proposal that has gained more credibility over the decades. Tectonic is a Greek word related to building. One image of our planet’s surface may be described as a group of reassembled, ancient building blocks. The blocks have slowly moved across the Earth’s surface only a few centimeters per year. Evidence from ancient fossil deposits and magnetism (paleomagnetism) preserved in the rocks give clues of an exceedingly complex and ancient process.
Our contemporary belief in plate tectonics demonstrates how science knowledge has proliferated. Plate tectonics phenomena are on a par with revolutionary discoveries in many fields of historic science. There are many historic discoveries, including early knowledge of plate tectonics introduced in the 1960s. Many discoveries utilized past knowledge to discover and apply new knowledge.
Plate tectonics is one example. Ideas about convection currents had been proposed for several hundred years. Convection currents occur in gases and liquids owing to unequal heating. Convection currents also occur slowly in solids such as the Earth’s rock mantle. They produce mantle plumes of hot magma. Convection is one of the three primary means of heat travel. Moving molecules cycle heat energy from warm regions to cooler regions.
Mantle convection and plate tectonics provide a general framework for understanding tectonic physics. Transport of heat from the interior of the earth drives solid state convection. Plate tectonics is a direct consequence of this convection.
(Sciencedirect article, 2003)
Decay of radioactive elements in Earth’s mantle supplies most of the heat necessary to drive convection in the solid mantle. Volcanoes at Earth’s surface ultimately benefit all humanity. Apart from some disastrous effects of volcanism (humans are gifted with wisdom to avoid the harmful effects of volcanism), these dynamic events have occurred for millions of years on Planet Earth. Volcanic events produce beneficial soil fertility and hundreds of mineral resources for our modern burgeoning population. 80% of Earth’s surface is volcanic in origin.
God has created Earth for the ultimate benefit of humanity. Dynamic events such as volcanoes are evidence of our planet’s beneficial recycling mechanisms. In Holy Scripture we discover many examples of the Creator’s wisdom, power, and providence. “Now therefore, our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name.” I Chroncles 29:13 (NKJV).