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ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY
ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY

Hot Spots

Hot Spots

A hot spot is an area on Earth over a mantle plume or an area under the rocky outer layer of Earth, called the crust, where magma is hotter than surrounding magma. The magma plume causes melting and thinning of the rocky crust and widespread volcanic activity.

Grades

5 - 8

Subjects

Earth Science, Geography, Geology, Physical Geography

Image

hot spot

2018 eruption on Mount Kilauea.

Photograph by the USGS

A hot spot is an area on Earth that exists over a mantle plume. A mantle plume is an area under the rocky outer layer of Earth, called the crust, where magma is hotter than surrounding magma. Heat from this extra hot magma causes melting and thinning of the rocky crust, which leads to widespread volcanic activity on Earth’s surface above the plume.

While most volcanoes form along tectonic plate boundaries, mantle plumes and hot spots lead to their development as well. Hot spot volcanoes occur far from plate boundaries. Because the hot spot is caused by mantle plumes that exist below the tectonic plates, as the plates move, the hot spot does not, and may create a chain of volcanoes on the Earth’s surface. Neither the Hawaiian Islands nor Yellowstone National Park are near plate boundaries. Rather, the volcanoes that form the Hawaiian Islands and the volcanic activity at Yellowstone National Park are due to their locations over hot spots.

Geologists estimate there are about 40 to 50 hot spots around the world.

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Director
Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
Author
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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