Geological Oddity: The Underwater Tamu Massif Could be the Largest Single Volcano on Earth

This could be the largest volcano on Earth! The Tamu Massif, the oldest and largest edifice of the Shatsky Rise oceanic plateau in the north-western Pacific Ocean, is a single, immense volcano.

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The Tamu massif: An immense shield volcano within the Shatsky Rise oceanic plateau. Photo: Nature Geoscience

Most oceanic plateaux are massive basaltic volcanoes. However, the structure of these volcanoes, and how they erupt and evolve, is unclear, because they are remote and submerged beneath the oceans. Scientists suggest they discovered the largest single volcano on Earth: The underwater Tamu Massif. According to the research paper, its size is comparable to the largest volcano in the Solar System, Olympus Mons on Mars.

Their findings are based on multichannel seismic profiles and rock samples taken from Integrated Ocean Drilling Program core sites to analyse the structure of the Tamu Massif, the oldest and largest edifice of the Shatsky Rise oceanic plateau in the north-western Pacific Ocean.

According to their data, the Tamu Massif is a single, immense volcano, constructed from massive lava flows that emanated from the volcano centre to form a broad, shield-like shape. The volcano has anomalously low slopes, probably due to the high effusion rates of the erupting lavas. In a way, they document a ‘new’ class of oceanic volcanoes that is distinguished by its size and morphology from the thousands of seamounts found throughout the oceans. (Nature Geoscience)

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