This Envisat image shows the volcanic islands of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. Hawaii, admitted as the 50th of the United States in 1959, is the only state comprised totally of islands. Visible in the image from right to left are the eight major islands – the Big Island of Hawaii, Kahoolawe, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai and Niihau.
Hawaii is also the only state that does not fall within the North American continent. The islands stretch more than 2575 km across the mid-Pacific Ocean and lie some 2367 km north of the equator and just over 4000 km southwest of North America.
All of the islands, projecting peaks of volcanic mountains, formed millions of years ago when fiery basalt rock erupted through a crack in the ocean floor. Having formed above a magma hotspot in the Pacific plate, Hawaii has some of the world’s largest active and inactive volcanoes.
The 4170-metre-high Mauna Loa volcano to the south of the Big Island of Hawaii is the world’s largest volcano by area and remains active. The smaller, taller, 4250-metre-high Mauna Kea is also located on the big island of Hawaii, which is home to five volcanoes in total.
The heights of mountains are generally measured from sea level; however, Mauna Kea rises a total of 10203 metres from the sea floor, so that if counted from base to peak this shield volcano is actually the tallest mountain on Earth.
The Hawaiian Islands enjoy lush tropical forests from the combination of heavy rainfall and fertile volcanic soil. Because of its tropical soil, Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows coffee. More than one-third of the world's commercial supply of pineapples comes from Hawaii and most of the world's macadamia nuts are grown on the Big Island.
This 26 January 2007 image was acquired by Envisat's Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) working in Full Resolution mode to provide a spatial resolution of 300 metres.