Oahu Dissolving, ‘Great Natural Laboratory’ Reveals Eroding Mountain Ranges

The Hawaiian island of Oahu is dissolving, scientists at Brigham Young University say, prone not only to erosion but “internal factors” that slowly but surely wear away the isle’s mountain ranges as well as beaches.

Oahu is dissolving, the researchers say, in part due to the natural erosion of beaches — but also due to the natural motion of underground freshwater springs that account for some of the island’s loss of mass.

LiveScience explains, however, that if you’re planning a trip to Oahu, dissolving shouldn’t be on your pros and cons list — while the island’s loss of mass is documented, the effects are not likely ones to be measured in our lifetimes:

“Researchers writing in the upcoming February 15 issue of the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta estimate that the volcanic island will continue to grow, thanks to plate tectonics, for another 75,000 to 1.75 million years. After that, however, the forces working to eat away at Oahu from the inside out will begin to triumph.”

BYU geologist Steven Nelson says that Hawaii and Oahu are great “natural laboratories” due to their unique and pure composition as well as the variation in weather seen on the islands:

“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.”

Hawaiian Island

While the study confirmed that Oahu is technically dissolving (as well as growing due to plate tectonics), researchers also hope the study will enable better understanding of how climate conditions affect islands in the tropics.