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Hotspot vs. Island Arc

Island Arcs and Hotspots look the same, a string of islands. Sometimes teachers even teach that Hotspots and Island Arcs are the same.


Hotspots are places under the earth's crust where magma is extra hot. Unless the rock there is pretty strong, the magma will eventually leak out by melting the ocean floor, making a volcano. Hotspots always stay in one place, but the plates move. Because of that, it creates a chain of volcanoes, with the newest one over the hotspot and the older one furthest from the hotspot. This makes it easy for scientists to tell which way the plates are moving. Below is a drawing of a group of hotspot volcanoes and a list of famous hotspots.

hotspot example
  • Yellowstone Caldera
  • Hawaii
  • Canary Islands
  • Galapagos Island hotspot
  • Iceland hotspot (actually, Iceland is on a plate boundary and a hotspot)

Island Arc

An Island Arc looks the same as a hotspot chain, but it's created differently. Island Arcs are made near plate boundaries, where one plate goes under another. These normally turn out as volcanoes. The Philippines is an Island Arc. Below is a drawing of an island arc.

island arc example

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