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Most volcanic areas are caused by plate tectonics, but the hot spots are caused by a thermal plumes from the Earth's mantle. From the mantle magma comes to the surface, where it causes volcanism.

The location of the hot spot is fixed by the position of the mantle plume. When a tectonic plate moves over the hotspot in the course of geological time, the original volcano is no longer above the hotspot. A new volcano will emerged. As a result, on a tectonic plate a row of extinct volcanoes can occur, the oldest furthest away from the current location of the hotspot. A good example is the Hawaiian Islands.

Examples of hotspots are the Azores, the Canary Islands, Hawaii Islands, Comoros, Galapagos Islands, Iceland (coincides with a plate boundary) and Mount Cameroon.

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