28. Linear Volcanic Chains on the Pacific Plate

  1. George H. Sutton,
  2. Murli H. Manghnani,
  3. Ralph Moberly and
  4. Ethel U. Mcafee
  1. Everett D. Jackson

Published Online: 17 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM019p0319

The Geophysics of the Pacific Ocean Basin and Its Margin

The Geophysics of the Pacific Ocean Basin and Its Margin

How to Cite

Jackson, E. D. (1976) Linear Volcanic Chains on the Pacific Plate, in The Geophysics of the Pacific Ocean Basin and Its Margin (eds G. H. Sutton, M. H. Manghnani, R. Moberly and E. U. Mcafee), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM019p0319

Author Information

  1. U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, California 94025

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 17 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1976

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900193

Online ISBN: 9781118663592



  • Geophysics—Pacific area—Congresses;
  • Woollard, George Prior, 1908


It has been proposed that linear volcanic chains on the Pacific plate, of which the Hawaiian chain is the best known example, formed by the steady passage of older Pacific lithosphere over fixed melting anomalies in the asthenosphere or the deep mantle, at least during the last 70–80 m.y. It has further been proposed that the active, shield-building, southeastern ends of these chains form part of a fixed reference frame on Earth from which ‘absolute' plate motions can be derived. Age data on volcanoes of chains in the Pacific are not linear when plotted against distance along the chains. This scatter appears to be a result, in some cases, of the use of inappropriate age data; in others, of dating lavas of volcanoes whose tholeiitic and alkalic suite rocks have extended life spans; and in still others, of dating volcanic rocks that represent a period of rejuvenated volcanism on older shields. However, in some cases, the scatter is demonstrably the result of real variable rates of emplacement of volcanic edifices along chains. The time scale of apparent irregular progression. where documented or suspected. ranges from I or 2 to 30 or 40 m.y., and the detailed rate of volcanic progression in the Hawaiian chain ranges from as little as −7 to as much as +24 cm/yr. On the other hand. students of magnetic anomaly time scales maintain that spreading rates along oceanic rift systems in the major oceans of the world, including the Pacific, have been relatively constant over the last 70–80 m.y. At least three major possibilities may explain this apparent lack of kinematic agreement: (1) the rate of volcanic propagation of linear volcanic chains is not directly proportional to the rate of Pacific plate motion; (2) the East Pacific rise, while maintaining a steady spreading rate, has jumped or migrated in an irregular manner with time; or (3) the magnetic anomaly time scale is not linear. Of these alternatives, the weight of evidence at present favors the first. although all three mechanisms may be involved.