Mountain ranges on Hawaii’s Oahu island are dissolving and may one day no longer exist, according to researchers from Brigham Young University.
BYU geologists Steven Nelson and David Tingey, along with other researchers, sampled groundwater and stream water on Oahu to figure out which type of water was responsible for removing mineral material, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. The researchers’ findings were reported in the latest edition of the Geochemica et Cosmochimica Acta journal.
As part of their research, the BYU team used data estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey to determine how much mass is dissolving from Oahu every year.
They found that internal factors on the island are contributing to Oahu dissolving, not external factors such as erosion.
"More material is dissolving from those islands than what's being carried off through erosion," Nelson said in a statement to the Star-Advertiser on Friday.
"All of the Hawaiian Islands are made of just one kind of rock," Nelson told United Press International, referring to the volcanic composition of the islands. "The weathering rates are variable, too, because rainfall is so variable, so it's a great natural laboratory."
While Oahu is dissolving, changes on the Koolau and Waianae mountain ranges aren't expected to be seen rapidly.
The Star-Advertiser said that plate tectonics are causing Oahu to move to the northwest, which is causing the Hawaiian island’s elevation to rise. The shift is offsetting the mountains’ loss of elevation from dissolution and erosion, according to the newspaper.
Researchers said they predict that the mountain ranges will flatten in about 1.5 million years, when groundwater will carry mineral material away from the peaks.