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World’s biggest volcano at the bottom of the sea

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Because I plan to visit Iceland next year, I am beginning to develop more than a passing interest in volcanoes. However, the earth’s biggest volcanoes may be found under the sea rather than above it. A mega-volcano found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and described recently in Nature Geoscience, is being reported as the largest single volcano on Earth.

Tamu Massif, as the volcano is called, may be as big as Olympus Mons on Mars, which is regarded at the solar system’s largest known volcano. An inactive volcano, Tamu Massif is part of a range of underwater mountains situated close to the east coast of Japan, covering an area as large as California. Rocks from Tamu Massif have been identified as volcanic and its sheer size made geologists believe it was the result of many volcanic eruptions at a point where three microplates of the Earth’s crust meet.

However, new findings indicate that this volcano may have been formed from one distinct massive flow of lava. A research team from Texas has drilled samples from the sea bed and poked Tamu Massif with seismic waves to confirm how the rocks were formed. From all the data gathered, the Texan researchers think this underwater mountain range resulted from a huge single eruption.

Much of the Earth’s sea bed remains to be explored and the research team think there may be even bigger volcanoes under the sea.

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