Abstract

In-plane stresses, which accompany the flexural deformation of the lithosphere under the load of adjacent volcanoes, may govern the spacing of volcanoes in hotspot provinces. Specifically, compressive stresses in the vicinity of a volcano prevent new upwelling in this area, forcing a new volcano to develop at a minimum distance that is equal to the distance in which the radial stresses change from compressional to tensile (the inflection point). If a volcano is modeled as a point load on a thin elastic plate, then the distance to the inflection point is proportional to the thickness of the plate to the power of 3/4. Compilation of volcano spacing in seven volcanic groups in East Africa and seven volcanic groups of oceanic hotspots shows significant correlation with the elastic thickness of the plate and matches the calculated distance to the inflection point. In contrast, volcano spacing in island arcs and over subduction zones is fairly uniform and is much larger than predicted by the distance to the inflection point, reflecting differences in the geometry of the source and the upwelling areas.

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