This is an image the ocean floor of the Earth, showing island arcs being formed.
Click on image for full size
Image from: NOAA/NESDIS/National Geophysical Data Center, Boulder, CO
Island Arc Formation
There are two ways in which a group of islands can form.
1.) As a lithospheric slab is being subducted, the slab melts when the edges reach a depth which is sufficiently hot. Hot, remelted material from the subducting slab rises and leaks into the crust, forming a series of volcanoes. These volcanoes can make a chain of islands called an "island arc". Examples of island arcs are the Japanese islands, the Kuril Islands, and the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, shown here.
Island Arcs are formed on the opposing edge of a subducted slab. For each case, there is an associated subducting slab and a trench. The trenches for these island arcs can barely be made out in this map.
2.) The second way in which islands are formed is via plumes or hot spots in the lithosphere. The Hawaiian Islands are an example of this type of island formation. In this case, there is no associated subducting slab.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games
section of our online store
includes a climate change card game
and the Traveling Nitrogen game
You might also be interested in:
When two sections of the Earth's crust collide, one slab of crust can be forced back down into the deeper regions of the Earth, as shown in this diagram. This process is called subduction. The slab that...more
Volcanoes form when hot material from below rises and leaks into the crust. This hot material, called magma, comes either from a melt of subducted crustal material, and which is light and buoyant after...more
The Hawaiian Islands are an example of the way some volcanoes are made. A rising hot bubble of material finds it's way into the crust of the Earth from the deep interior, and erupts material unto the surface....more
Ash is made of millions of tiny fragments of rock and glass formed during a volcanic eruption. Volcanic ash particles are less than 2 mm in size and can be much smaller. Volcanic ash forms in several ways...more
Cinder cones are simple volcanoes which have a bowl-shaped crater at the summit and only grow to about a thousand feet, the size of a hill. They usually are created of eruptions from a single opening,...more
Lava can move in broad flat lava flows, or it can move through tight channels or tubes. Lava flows tend to cool quickly and flow slowly. The fastest lava outside of channels moves at about 6 mi/hr an easy...more
Plates at our planet’s surface move because of the intense heat in the Earth’s core that causes molten rock in the mantle layer to move. It moves in a pattern called a convection cell that forms when...more