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The nine islands originated at the point in the Atlantic where the Eurasian, African, and American Plate come together. The friction and tension of the tectonic shifts continues to generate volcanic eruptions, usually below the water surface. Eight of the nine islands are of volcanic origin. The southernmost island, Santa Maria, was created by sediment deposits. It is also the oldest of the islands, which gradually formed 4.2 million years ago. The newest island is Pico, which formed some 300,000 years ago.
The Azores are the summits of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a mountain range on the bottom of the sea. In fact, the two westernmost islands, Flores and Corvo, drift 1.5 centimeters toward America every year, while the others are moving east at the same "speed".
Overall, the Azores cover an area of about 2,300 square kilometers, a little less than the German Saarland region. Distances are enormous. The distance from northwestern Corvo to southwestern Santa Maria is 550 kilometers.
Pico Island in the center of the archipelago is home to the volcano of the same name, Portugal's highest mountain at 2,351 meters. The Azores are located about 1,500 km from the Portuguese coast, while North America is some 4,000 km away.
The Azores are an important point for meteorologists because of the so-called Azores High, which impacts the weather in Europe. Its counterpoint is the Icelandic Low.
Thanks to the moist, mild climate, the vegetation of the Azores is varied and lush. The remote archipelago is home to some unique plant species, but the volcanic origins have also created barren, rugged areas.