You thought Mauna Loa was big? Think again, as scientists have just discovered what they believe to be the world’s largest volcano and one of the largest in the Solar System. And it is truly gigantic.
The Tamu Massif, as it was named, was discovered on the bottom of the Pacific, about 1,000 miles east of the coast of Japan. The good news is that it does not appear to be active.
The newly found volcano lies about 3.4 miles below the sea and covers an impressive 119,000 square miles. For the sake of comparison, the Mauna Loa in Hawaii, which is the largest active volcano on the planet, only covers about 2,000 square miles.
The Tamu Massif’s size brings is closer to what is currently believed to be the largest volcano in the Solar System: the Olympus Mons on Mars. But unlike the Olympus Mons, which has shallow roots, the new Pacific volcano goes about 18 miles deep into the crust of the earth.
It rises about 2 miles above the sea floor, and researchers doubt that its peak ever rose above sea level even when it was still active. Scientists say it is very unlikely that the Tamu Massif ever erupts again.
First discovered about 20 years ago, scientists believed the gigantic structure on the Shatsky Rise underwater plateau consisted of a network of several volcanoes. But a team of geologists led by the scientist who discovered the formation, University of Houston’s William Sager, discovered that it was actually a single volcano.
The research showed that the Tamu Massif is an immense volcano that was formed 145 million years ago. It was formed by massive lava flows that erupted from the center of the volcano and created a wide, rounded dome structure in the shape of a shield.
According to Sager, the volcano was formed in a relatively short time span of one million to several million years. It is believed to have become inactive within a few million years since its formation.
Scientists don’t rule out the possibility of discovering other such super volcanoes beneath the ocean, since there were several such plateaus that erupted during the Cretaceous. Said Sager: “We don’t have the data to see inside them and know their structure, but it would not surprise me to find out that there are more like Tamu out there.”