A surfer holds his board aloft as the sun sets over Waialua on Oahu's North Shore in Hawaii (Photo : Reuters)
In 1.5 million years, Hawaii's jagged mountains will dissolve and erode at a faster pace than the tectonic processes below the island can keep up with, according to a recent Bringham Young University study (via UPI). Eventually, the once varied landscape, pocked with cracks and crevices, will smooth over, subject to the whim of groundwater.
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Geologist and professor Steve Nelson notes, "All of the Hawaiian Islands are made of just one kind of rock. The weathering rates are variable, too, because rainfall is so variable, so it's a great natural laboratory."
Nelson adds, "We are trying to figure out how fast the island is going away and what the influence of climate is on that rate. More material is dissolving from those islands than what is being carried off through erosion."
Researchers looked at the quantity of minerals that were being transported away from Oahu, Hawaii in particular. Currently, however, "recent work indicates that Oahu is tectonically emerging at 0.060 m/ka. As long as this uplift continues, the net size of the island will slowly increase," reads the study's abstract. In time, once the tectonic activiies slow down, the dissolution of the the island's minerals will flatten its landscape, suggests the study.
Co-author Brian Selck admits, "The main thing that surprised me on the way was the appearance of a large amount of quartz in a saprolite taken from a 1-meter depth."
The study was originally published in the journal Geochemica et Cosmochimica Acta.