Saturday, September 7, 2013

Deep In The Pacific, Scientists Discover Biggest Volcano On Earth

The world's largest volcano has until now been lurking undiscovered in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, according to a team of scientists who identified the massive object and reported their findings in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience.
The newly revealed Tamu Massif volcano — located about 1,000 miles east of Japan and 4 miles below the ocean's surface — is about the size of New Mexico. It not only outclasses previous record holder Mauna Loa in Hawaii by about 60 times, but it's in the same league as Olympus Mons on the planet Mars, the largest known volcano in the solar system.
Nature.com reports that the mega-volcano has been inactive for millions of years, but "its very existence will help geophysicists to set limits on how much magma can be stored in Earth's crust and pour out onto the surface."
The 120,000-square-mile shield volcano took a few million years to take shape when it formed about 145 million years ago at the transition between the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, according to Sager.
It's not tall, but it is extremely wide — a veritable undersea behemoth compared with land-based Mauna Loa, which measures just 2,000 square miles. Tamu Massif comes close to matching the geographic size of Olympus Mons.
The volcano is part of a larger underwater feature known as the Shatsky Rise, but only in the past few years has Sager's team been able to determine that it's a single volcano. "We knew it was a big mountain, some sort of volcanic mountain, but oceanic plateaus are very large features hidden beneath the ocean and it's very hard to study them," Sager says.
"The main thing was the imaging we were able to do a few years ago, but without sort of the ground truth provided by samples that we drilled out of this thing, we wouldn't have had nearly as compelling a result," he tells NPR.



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