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Researcher Says the Hawaiian Islands Are Dissolving

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the saliva-causes-stomach-cancer dept.

Earth 55

SternisheFan writes with a snippet from Science Recorder: "Reporting in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, researchers at Brigham Young University say that the Hawaiian Islands are slowly dissolving. Eventually, Oahu's Koolau and Waianae mountains will dwindle to little more than a flat, low-lying island like Midway. While erosion is certainly a guilty party, researchers contend that the mountains of Oahu are, in fact, dissolving from within. Researchers spent several months collecting samples of groundwater and stream water to determine which source removed more mineral material. They also put to use surface water estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey to calculate the quantity of mass that vanished from the island each year. Researchers point out that Oahu is actually rising in elevation at a slow but steady rate due to plate tectonics. [BYU geologist Steve Nelson] and colleagues believe that Oahu will continue to grow for as long as 1.5 million years. Beyond that, the force of groundwater will eventually win and Oahu will begin its transformation to a flat, low-lying island like Midway." (If you have journal access, or don't mind forking over $40, you can read the original paper.)

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Oh Shit (5, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375449)

Larry Ellison isn't going to like this...

Re:Oh Shit (1)

radiumsoup (741987) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375463)

you mean Larry Ellison's robotically-stored consciousness isn't going to like this... (you know, the part of him that will survive the next 1.5 million years)

Re:Oh Shit (5, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | about a year and a half ago | (#42376041)

That's fine because he won't let it be stored in anything but an Oracle database, running an Oracle OS on Oracle hardware. It'll never be big enough to hold his entire ego, and it certainly won't last the decade...

Re:Oh Shit (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42376801)

Not to mention, too slow to be useful.

Hmmmm (5, Funny)

Dishwasha (125561) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375471)

colleagues believe that Oahu will continue to grow for as long as 1.5 million years.

So what you're saying is, we've got some time?

Re:Hmmmm (1)

Nationless (2123580) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375891)

Think of the children's [times 1500] children's children's children's children!

And yes, I tried to copy paste 1500 "children's", but apparently slashdot has some sort of "spam" protection... Who knew!

Re:Hmmmm (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about a year and a half ago | (#42376599)

Think of the children's [times 1500] children's children's children's children!

And yes, I tried to copy paste 1500 "children's", but apparently slashdot has some sort of "spam" protection... Who knew!

Not spam, soylent green.

Re:Hmmmm (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375951)

and just think of the timescale after that for the shrinking.we're talking of timescale of Midway's wearing down which is couple tens of millions of years. the human race could go back to being like apes or some other kind of unintelligent animal in a tenth that time....

Re:Hmmmm (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about a year and a half ago | (#42377861)

Yeah I don't think we'll need millions of years for that...

Re:Hmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42376155)

They actually publish stuff like this now a days.

Volcano create land, water dissolve land.

Duh.

Re:Hmmmm (1, Offtopic)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year and a half ago | (#42376265)

So what you're saying is, we've got some time?

It's never too early to start thinking about building a big glass dome over the island, before it goes Atlantis. These big construction projects always take longer and cost more than estimated. Just look at Boston's Big Dig. 1.5 million years is about the norm for big government projects.

Hey, wait and see if Las Vegas can top that! An underwater resort!

If this had happened on December 7th, 1941, this really would have confused the Japanese.

"Flight leader here. I see the ships. But there ain't no island! Can I yell Tora! Tora! Tora! anyway . . . ?"

Re:Hmmmm (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#42377845)

Thats not the real issue. Ive heard that in the next few years, Guam is likely to tip over and capsize!

TL;DR... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42375487)

TL;DR 1.5 million years form now, Oahu will stop growing. Then it will start to shrink.

Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Of course (5, Informative)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375489)

This is how islands form and erode. This is some kind of surprise?

Re:Of course (1)

CapOblivious2010 (1731402) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375665)

This is how islands form and erode. This is some kind of surprise?

That's what I was thinking.

"And in other news, the sky is expected to remain blue and scientists predict that water will remain wet for the foreseeable future"

Re:Of course (2, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about a year and a half ago | (#42376311)

>> the sky is expected to remain blue and scientists predict that water will remain wet

Your misguided promotion of the radical scientific agenda won't fool Jesus.

Re:Of course (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42375693)

I figured that islands erode from the ocean waves beating on them, not from groundwater dissolving the rock inside of it.

Re:Of course (0)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375743)

You figured half correctly, I suppose. Wave and tide action do erode land, in some places. They also tend to build up land in other places. The net result, I think, is a loss of land from sea water erosion. But, these researchers weren't interested in any of that, so it appears that they didn't include any of it.

Re:Of course (4, Informative)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | about a year and a half ago | (#42376529)

Seamount [wikipedia.org] style landmasses do not tend to get built up, unlike continental land masses (which still erode way more then they gain from the sea, just more slowly). The steep sides tend to deeply deposit any eroded materials. Once the island is below sea level the most of the most active erosion ends and the island slowly sinks back in to the lithosphere until the time it is finally drug back in to the earth in a subduction zone.

The Hawaiian islands do get a lot of rainfall in most places each year, the nature of its porus volcanic soils is especially dissolvable to fresh water.

Re:Of course (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42381907)

Seamount [wikipedia.org] style landmasses do not tend to get built up, unlike continental land masses (which still erode way more then they gain from the sea, just more slowly). The steep sides tend to deeply deposit any eroded materials. Once the island is below sea level the most of the most active erosion ends and the island slowly sinks back in to the lithosphere until the time it is finally drug back in to the earth in a subduction zone.

The Hawaiian islands do get a lot of rainfall in most places each year, the nature of its porus volcanic soils is especially dissolvable to fresh water.

The rainiest spot on earth is on Kauai. Hawa`i receives so much rain because of the mountain heights. The mountains force the moisture-laden air up where it can't keep all that water. This is what causes the leeward side. As an example, the North Shore of O`ahu is wet, but Honolulu side doesn't even receive a quarter of the rain. Once the mountains sink, nothing will force the air to give up the moisture as rain.

Re:Of course (5, Informative)

houghi (78078) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375729)

While erosion is certainly a guilty party, researchers contend that the mountains of Oahu are, in fact, dissolving from within.

Erosion is not the interesting part, From within is.

Re:Of course (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375831)

What, like an underground network of rivers in a porous rock, also referred to as a cave?

Re:Of course (1)

peragrin (659227) | about a year and a half ago | (#42376367)

Or you know lava tubes formed when the volcanic island was formed.

Also any one who has looked at the Hawaiian islands should note one fact the biggest islands are the most recently formed. The oldest islands are the smallest. The older they are the smaller they are.

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42377341)

the surprise is that that the water from rainfall seems to be dissolving the volcanic rock from the middle of the lslands out, through the porous rock and caves (at least the way I read it) rather than simple erosion around the edges and from formation of soil as we would expect. Sounds like it can be fixed if we just apply enough blacktop and shopping malls!

Not to worry. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42375523)

According to various fund raising groups, Hawaii is already shrinking because of global warming.

Here's what I don't get (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42375543)

In the 70s, all people heard was "save the oceans!" and such. Now, we're making MORE ocean and people are still upset. We just can't win.

Re:Here's what I don't get (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42375661)

Hey - If we don't make more ocean, we won't have the room to throw away all of our plastic bags and water bottles.

Re:Here's what I don't get (1)

Frontier Owner (2616587) | about a year and a half ago | (#42377045)

we must stop this from happening! We cant let a process of nature destroy the beauty of Hawaii...

Re:Here's what I don't get (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42377363)

Or the Jersey Shore. Must ship in more sand.

Re:Here's what I don't get (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42377109)

That is because you are too stupid to even try and grasp at what they were talking about. Do us all a favour, and try autoerotic asphyxiation.

But this is wrong. (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375617)

>Beyond that, the force of groundwater will eventually win and Oahu will begin its transformation to a flat, low-lying island like Midway."

What do you mean "begin?" Begun it has, already. /yoda.

Oahu's eventual metamorphosis is to that of a seamount, like all the other seamounts that stretch along the ocean floor all the way to the Aleutians and Kamchatka.

This is not news at all for Geologists, or anyone for that matter, who has seen a map of the ocean floor on Google Earth or the globe at the Boston Museum of Science in the 70s (yours truly).

--
BMO

Re:But this is wrong. (1)

runeghost (2509522) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375731)

The "new" part of this news is HOW the erosion will happen - from subsurface groundwater instead of just surface erosion.

Re:But this is wrong. (2)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375777)

But we already know that subsurface groundwater causes erosion.

We've known for a long time. We have national parks dedicated to pretty examples of this. Insurance companies hate extreme examples of this like karst topographies, especially when a house falls in a sinkhole.

Somehow someone thought that this didn't apply to islands and needed a study to find this out? How do I get a grant to do a similar study in another tropical paradise to prove the obvious?

--
BMO

Re:But this is wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42375847)

Thanks for your infinite wisdom captain hindsight.

Re:But this is wrong. (2)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375937)

An interesting result would have been "strangely, groundwater doesn't cause erosion here" because groundwater causes erosion everywhere.

Even here in New England, groundwater does a bang-up job of dissolving the iron out of granite and producing what is known as "rotten rock" and causing bathtub-rings of rust in ISDS test pits that make seasonal water table estimations easy. Water also dissolves out feldspars giving the classic pitting of granite rocks.

This wasn't interesting in the least. "Yup, groundwater is causing erosion here too." Wow.

Show me where water doesn't cause erosion. THAT would be pretty cool.

--
BMO

Re:But this is wrong. (1)

chmod a+x mojo (965286) | about a year and a half ago | (#42376501)

Don't forget all the sulfides from granitic plutons as well. Thats why untreated well water tastes like.... well water. Sulfides, irons, and arsenic's all (mostly) from the Pyrites from Felsic rocks being leeched by groundwater.

So wait 1.5 million years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42375663)

Then call Steve McGarrett and friends. [shulmansays.com]

I can't tell from the summary... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42375687)

Does this mean Oahu will become a flat, low-lying island like Midway?

These were LSD researchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42375705)

Every one of their papers find something or other is melting.

The Next Thing You Know..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42375793)

They will discover plate tectonics are in the process of building the Hawai'ian islands just a bit faster than the erosion is taking them down.

birthers (1)

brainstem (519778) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375803)

Man, those birthers will do just about anything to show Obama wasn't born in the US. Did someone catch Donald Trump tossing shovels of sand into the ocean on the backside of the island?

Midway (1)

cvnautilus (1793340) | about a year and a half ago | (#42375923)

Why does the summary keep referencing the flatness of Midway? I don't think many people are familiar with Pacific island topography.

Re:Midway (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42376345)

Looks pretty flat [wikipedia.org] to me.

Could someone tell me (1)

skitchen8 (1832190) | about a year and a half ago | (#42376145)

what kind of island Midway is? Its mountainous right?

Re:Could someone tell me (2)

reboot246 (623534) | about a year and a half ago | (#42377289)

It's an atoll. It's barely above water.

Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42376643)

How disappointing that the islands seem to be dissolving from within and this isn't fully due to man-made erosion. It is just impossible for me (personally) to really get into an environmental story unless there is an angle of how mankind is awful.

This just in... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42376807)

Everything will be gone, given enough time.

quick (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year and a half ago | (#42377479)

better sell them off to some cashed up country while it is still worth something!

$40 ripfoff (1)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | about a year and a half ago | (#42377511)

> (If you have journal access, or don't mind forking over $40, you can read the original paper.)

You might ask why the journal is charging $40. Usually the journals - run by companies - have nothing to do with writing the original paper, contributing only academic review (possibly by unpaid volunteers) and publishing. They won't print the article unless the author signs a copyright transfer agreement which means they no longer own the copyright, and can't even put the paper on their own website. It's a ripoff, but academic institutions made the mistake of crediting publications by their employees which count towards promotions. The academic publishers in turn charge institutions extortionate rates - many thousands of dollars - to see papers by other academics they didn't pay a cent for. These people are the academic version of the RIAA: Redundant Middle-men ripping off both sides. There are papers written as far back as the 1960s which academic publishing companies still hold copyright over, standing in the way of ongoing research.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_transfer_agreement [wikipedia.org]
"Princeton goes open access to stop staff handing all copyright to journals - unless waiver granted " - http://theconversation.edu.au/princeton-goes-open-access-to-stop-staff-handing-all-copyright-to-journals-unless-waiver-granted-3596 [theconversation.edu.au]
"One of disadvantages of this publishing model, is that the published research is only available to those researchers who have a subscription to the journal or can afford to buy the book. Often subscription and book costs are prohibitively expensive. Many libraries, particularly smaller ones, cannot afford these subscriptions." - http://www.unimelb.edu.au/copyright/information/new/research/publishing.html [unimelb.edu.au]

BYU (1)

asifyoucare (302582) | about a year and a half ago | (#42378523)

Just idle curiosity : Do Mormons believe in an 'young earth', and if so how can they have geologists?

Re:BYU (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42378673)

Just idle curiosity : Do Mormons believe in an 'young earth', and if so how can they have geologists?

No, mormons don't believe in a young earth. There doesn't seem to be any official doctrine on the matter. A quick google yields this: http://en.fairmormon.org/Brigham_Young/As_Young_Earth_Creationist.

Re:BYU (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42379245)

As a practicing Mormon who graduated from BYU and currently works there, I can say that I'm not aware of any official doctrine regarding the creation of the Earth. Science classes covered the same material as at other universities. We believe that Christ created the Earth but don't know exactly how. If He could command the elements (e.g. calming the sea), why couldn't he command the elements over time to create the Earth? Or, as many other Christians believe, He could command the elements to all appear more at once and look properly aged and weathered? I personally believe that the process was over a long time (i.e. what science is telling us) and was under the direction of Jesus Christ.

I think the confusion comes from the use of the word "day" in Genesis and some other terms. Was a "day" 24 hours when the sun and Earth weren't yet created? It could have been, but it easily could have meant "time period" (e.g. "back in my day"). I personally think it was the latter, meaning the creation was broken into multiple "time periods" instead of 24 hour periods.

I happen to work with a lot of BYU scientists in different fields who are very religious and see absolutely no conflict between science and church doctrine. I can't really speak for other church members, though, since this isn't exactly a normal conversation topic at church (not being avoided, just not something people even think to talk about).

yawn (1)

pbjones (315127) | about a year and a half ago | (#42378073)

the time frame puts this out beyond my care factor. Don't worry, rising sea levels will flood the Island first.

true religion outlet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42378719)

Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here.

Not surprising (1)

Codifex Maximus (639) | about a year and a half ago | (#42380103)

"Eventually, Oahu's Koolau and Waianae mountains will dwindle to little more than a flat, low-lying island like Midway."
Considering how Midway is the remnant of an island created by the same volcanic hotspot that created the Hawaiian island chain, that's not surprising.

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