Earth is Home to Second Largest Volcano in the Solar System


The largest volcano on Earth has been discovered. The volcano, dubbed Tamu Massif by William Sager, who discovered it two decades ago, might also be the Solar System’s second largest yet found.

Tamu Massif is located about 1,000 miles east of Japan, deep in the ocean. It’s referred to as a huge “shield volcano” according to research on it published in Nature Geoscience.  It covers approximately 120,00 square miles. That’s roughly the same amount of area as the British Isles. To put it in other words, it’s as large as Great Britain and Ireland combined.

According to Nature World News, the size of Tamu Massif is “equivalent to the state of New Mexico” and the summit of the immense volcano lies below the ocean’s surface, some 6,500 feet, while you’d have to travel down four miles to see parts of its base in person.

If the volcano was known about twenty years ago, why is it news today?

When Tamu Massif was discovered by university of Houston’s William Sager, who is a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, its general overall shape resembled three volcanoes side-by-side, causing geologists to think the giant volcano was  a range of volcanoes. The area was named the Shatsky Rise, at first.

Sager, himself, believed that he must have discovered three volcanoes, instead of one massive one. However, recent research conducted by Sager and his research team has proven that it’s one mega-volcano, instead of three very big ones — and by being one of the size that it is, Tamu Massif is making headlines around the world.

Tamu Massif was named by Sager, who wanted the first part of the name, Tamu, to be an acronym. The letters T-A-M-U refer to “Texas A&M University,” where Sager taught when the volcano was discovered. Massif means “massive” in French, and to geologists, it also refers to an immense mountain mass.

How does Tamu Massif stack up to other large volcanoes?

Besides being possibly “the largest single volcano on Earth,” according to the research published in Nature Geoscience, it is also “comparable in size to the largest volcano in the Solar System, Olympus Mons on Mars.”

By  way of contrast, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, with a base of around 2,000 square miles, is a mere sixtieth the size of Tamu Massif.

According to Sager, Tamu Massif may be approximately 145 million years old, and is likely extinct now. He believes that the last eruption of the giant volcano was probably around 140 million years ago, give or take.

The shape of Tamu Massif is unusual, in that it’s very wide, has gradual slopes, and it is not very high.  Sager thinks that the volcano never rose above the ocean’s surface, unlike the Hawaiian volcanoes.

In an interview Sager gave to the tamuTimes, he described Tamu Massif:

Its shape is different from any other sub-marine volcano found on Earth, and it’s very possible it can give us some clues about how massive volcanoes can form. An immense amount of magma came from the center, and this magma had to have come from the Earth’s mantle. So this is important information for geologists trying to understand how the Earth’s interior works.”

Who would have thought that the Earth is home to what is potentially the second largest volcano in the Solar System? But, it is — the Earth is home to the massive volcano that was once believed to be three volcanoes, Tamu Massif.

Written by: Douglas Cobb

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