Hawaii Geography and Climate
Hawaii, the 50th state (Statehood on Aug. 21, 1959) of the United States of America, consists of a group of volcanic islands in the central Pacific Ocean. The land area of these islands are the emerged tops of a chain of volcanic mountains that form eight major islands and 124 islets, stretching in a 1,500-mile crescent from Kure Island in the west to the island of Hawaii in the east, encompassing an area of 6,459 square miles (16,729 square km). The eight major islands at the eastern end of the chain are, from west to east, Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii. Volcanic activity has become dormant, with the exception of the volcanoes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea on the easternmost and largest island, Hawaii, where spectacular eruptions and lava flows take place from time to time. The highest Hawaiian mountains are Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, reaching 13,796 feet (4,205 m) and 13,678 feet (4,169 m) above sea level, respectively. There is little erosion in the geologically young areas, where the terrain is domelike and the volcanic craters are clearly defined. In the older areas the mountains have been shaped and eroded by the action of sea, rain, and wind. Their aspects thus include sharp and craggy silhouettes; abrupt, vertically grooved cliffs pocked with caves; deep valleys; collapsed craters (calderas); and coastal plains.