Huge underwater volcano on Earth rivals largest in solar system

Last Updated: Friday, September 6, 2013 - 13:22

Washington: A team of scientists have confirmed the existence of a volcano that covers an area approximately the size of British Isles.

Located about 1,000 miles east of Japan, Tamu Massif, is nearly as big as the giant volcanoes of Mars, placing it among the largest in the Solar System.

William Sager, a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at UH, first began studying the volcano about 20 years ago at Texas A and M`s College of Geosciences.

The volcano is the largest feature of Shatsky Rise, an underwater mountain range formed 130 to 145 million years ago by the eruption of several underwater volcanoes.

Until now, it was unclear whether Tamu Massif, which is believed to be about 145 million years old, was a single volcano, or a composite of many eruption points. By integrating several sources of evidence, including core samples and data collected on board the JOIDES Resolution research ship, the authors have confirmed that the mass of basalt that constitutes Tamu Massif did indeed erupt from a single source near the center.

Tamu Massif, which became inactive within a few million years after it was formed, stands out among underwater volcanoes not just for its size but also its shape. It is low and broad, meaning that the erupted lava flows must have travelled long distances compared to most other volcanoes on Earth.

Tamu Massif covers an area of about 120,000 square miles. By comparison, Hawaii`s Mauna Loa - the largest active volcano on Earth - is approximately 2,000 square miles, or roughly 2 percent the size of Tamu Massif.

Its top lies about 6,500 feet below the ocean surface, while much of its base is believed to be in waters that are almost four miles deep.

The study has been published in the Nature Geoscience.


First Published: Friday, September 6, 2013 - 11:23
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