Tamu Massif is Largest Single Volcano on Earth

Posted on September 5, 2013

Tamu Massif


Tamu Massif is the largest single volcano on Earth. It is the size of the state of New Mexico. It is located about 1,000 miles east of Japan and is the largest feature of Shatsky Rise, an underwater volcano range in the northern Pacific Ocean. Scientists say Tamu Massif is nearly as big as the giant volcanoes of Mars. The scientists discovering the huge volcano were led by William Sager, a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Houston (UH).

Tamu Massif is believed to be about 145 million years old. It 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, about 2% the size of Tamu Massif. Olympus Mons, a giant volcano on Mars, which is visible on a clear night with a good backyard telescope, is about 25% larger by volume than Tamu Massif.

Until now, it was unclear whether Tamu Massif was a single volcano, or a composite of multiple eruption points. The researchers integrated 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.

Sager says in a release, "Tamu Massif is the biggest single shield volcano ever discovered on Earth. There may be larger volcanoes, because there are bigger igneous features out there such as the Ontong Java Plateau, but we don't know if these features are one volcano or complexes of volcanoes."

Image courtesy Will Sager