Tamu Massif

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Tamu Massif
Tamu Massif, the Earth's largest volcano, about 1,000 Miles east of Japan.jpg
A bathymetric map of the volcano
Summit depth1,980 metres (6,500 ft)[1]
Height4,460 metres (14,620 ft)[1]
LocationNorthwest Pacific Ocean
RangeShatsky Rise
Coordinates33°N 158°E / 33°N 158°E / 33; 158Coordinates: 33°N 158°E / 33°N 158°E / 33; 158
TypeSeamount (underwater volcano), shield volcano
Age of rock144.6 ± 0.8 Ma[2]

Tamu Massif is an extinct submarine shield volcano in the northwest Pacific Ocean,[3] with the characteristics of a hybrid between a mid-ocean ridge and a shield volcano.[4] On 5 September 2013, researchers announced that it could be a single volcano, a claim which, if corroborated, would make Tamu Massif the largest known volcano on Earth.[1] Tamu Massif is located in the Shatsky Rise about 1,600 km (990 mi) east of Japan. The volcano covers an area of about 553,000 square kilometres (214,000 sq mi). Its summit is about 1,980 m (6,500 ft) below the surface of the ocean, and its base extends to about 6.4 km (4.0 mi) deep.[1] The volcano is about 4,460 metres (14,620 ft) tall.

* Tamu
Shatsky Rise
Emperor Seamounts Chain
Hawaiian Ridge
* Tamu
Shatsky Rise
Emperor Seamounts Chain
Hawaiian Ridge
Location of Tamu Massif[5][6]

William Sager, a marine geophysicist from the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Houston, began studying the volcano in about 1993 at the Texas A&M College of Geosciences. According to Sager and his team, Tamu Massif is "the biggest single shield volcano ever discovered on Earth". Other igneous features on the planet are larger, such as the Ontong Java Plateau, but it has not yet been determined if they are indeed just one volcano or rather complexes of several volcanoes.[7]


The name Tamu is taken from the initials of Texas A&M University.[8] William Sager, a geology professor and one of the lead scientists studying the volcano, previously taught at Texas A&M. A massif, which means "massive" in French, is a large mountain or a section of the planet's crust that is demarcated by faults and flexures.


The Tamu Massif was formed about 145 million years ago during the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous period[1] over a relatively short period of time (a few million years) and then became extinct.[1] Tamu Massif was formed during a single geologically brief eruptive period, which scientists had previously thought was impossible on Earth.[9][10] If confirmed, the suggestion that it could be a single volcano[11] would make the Tamu Massif the largest known volcano on Earth, dwarfing the current record-holder, Pūhāhonu, in the Hawaiian Islands. The main part of Tamu's rounded dome extends over an area of 450 km × 650 km (280 mi × 400 mi), totaling more than 292,500 km2 (112,900 sq mi), many times larger than Mauna Loa, which has an area of 5,000 km2 (1,900 sq mi), and about half the area of the Martian volcano Olympus Mons.[a] The entire mass of Tamu consists of basalt. Its slopes are very gradual, ranging from less than half a degree to one degree near its summit. The Shatsky Rise oceanic plateau is comparable in size to California or Japan,[1] but Tamu Massif, which is the plateau's oldest and largest edifice, is comparable in size to New Mexico,[1][13] or Britain and Ireland together.[5] A study in 2016 found that Tamu Massif likely encompassed the entire Shatsky Rise, meaning that Tamu Massif has an area of about 533,000 square kilometres (206,000 sq mi), surpassing Olympus Mons in surface area, though it has not yet been determined which of the two volcanoes has a greater mass.[10]

Using magnetic lineations, researchers discovered that there are three bathymetric highs and a low ridge, a topography that would imply three separate volcanoes; but the plume-head model indicates a single massive volcano.[11][14] Based on multichannel seismic profiles and rock samples from Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) core sites, Tamu Massif appears to be a single massive volcano made of lava flows that emanated from the volcano centre and formed its shield shape; however, the profiles have large gaps in them, leaving open the possibility that it may represent the activity of more than one volcano.[11] A subsequent study in 2016 found that the massif was likely generated by a single volcano.[10] In 2015, researchers found that the volcano's structure bore patterns of magnetic striping on either side, indicating that the volcano is likely a hybrid of a mid-ocean ridge and a shield volcano. Geologic data also indicated that Tamu Massif formed at the junction of three mid-ocean ridges, which was a highly unusual occurrence.[4]

A study found that the Moho line, the boundary between the Earth's crust and mantle, extends more than 30 kilometres (19 mi) beneath the base of Tamu Massif, meaning that the volcano is unlikely to ever erupt again, since magma is presumably unable to penetrate a barrier that thick.[10]

See also[edit]

  • Pūhāhonu - The second-largest volcano known on earth, recently discovered to be nearly twice as large as Mauna Loa
  • Mauna Loa – The third-largest volcano known on Earth; also the largest known volcano extending above sea level
  • Ring of Fire
  • Tharsis – A massive volcanic plateau on the western hemisphere of Mars that includes Olympus Mons


Informational notes

  1. ^ However, other Martian volcanoes, Alba Mons and Syrtis Major, have areas more than twice that of Olympus Mons.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Dennis Bryant (2013-09-05). "Possibly the largest single volcano on Earth". Maritime Magazine. Retrieved 2013-10-04.
  2. ^ J. J. Mahoney (2005). "Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary age and mid-ocean-ridge–type mantle source for Shatsky Rise". Geology. 33 (3): 185. Bibcode:2005Geo....33..185M. doi:10.1130/G21378.1.
  3. ^ Witze, Alexandra (5 September 2013). "Underwater volcano is Earth's biggest". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2013.13680.
  4. ^ a b Witze, Alexandra (19 November 2015). "The world's biggest volcano is a magnetic mix-up". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2015.18842. S2CID 181358030.
  5. ^ a b Rik Myslewski (2013-09-05). "The Solar System's second-largest volcano found hiding on Earth". theregister.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  6. ^ "Bottomfish fisheries by Japan, Russia, and Republic of Korea occur on various seamounts in the northwest Pacific within international waters". pifsc.noaa.gov. Honolulu, HI: Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, NOAA. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  7. ^ "Scientists Confirm Existence of Largest Single Volcano On Earth". ScienceDaily. 2013-09-05. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  8. ^ "World's Largest Volcano Now Named TAMU". Tamu Times. Texas A&M University. 2013-09-05. Archived from the original on 2013-09-08. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  9. ^ Trevor Nace (28 November 2015). "World's Largest Volcano Tamu Massif – Mapped For Clues To Earth's Interior". Forbes. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d Stephen Chen (24 March 2016). "Tamu Massif even more massive: world's largest volcano almost same size as Japan, widest in solar system". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  11. ^ a b c William W. Sager (2013). "An immense shield volcano within the Shatsky Rise oceanic plateau, northwest Pacific Ocean". Nature Geoscience. 6 (11): 976–981. Bibcode:2013NatGe...6..976S. doi:10.1038/ngeo1934.
  12. ^ J. B. Plescia (2004). "Morphometric properties of Martian volcanoes". Journal of Geophysical Research. 109 (E3): E03003. Bibcode:2004JGRE..109.3003P. doi:10.1029/2002JE002031.
  13. ^ Meeri Kim (2013-09-06). "New Mexico-size volcano discovered in the depths of the Pacific Ocean". Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-09-10.
  14. ^ William Sager. "Tectonic Evolution of Shatsky Rise: A Plateau Formed by a Plume Head or Not?". MantlePlumes.org. Retrieved 2013-09-07.

External links[edit]