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Biggest volcano on Earth found: It's been hiding under the ocean (+video)

The biggest single volcano on Earth is in the Pacific Ocean, roughly halfway between Hawaii and Japan. Dubbed 'Tamu Massif,' the humongous volcano erupted almost 150 million years ago.

A volcano identified under the Pacific Ocean might be the biggest volcano on the planet.
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A volcano submerged under the Pacific Ocean might be the biggest volcano on Earth – depending how you measure it.

“Our final calculations have determined it is about 120,000 square miles in area, or about the size of the state of New Mexico, making it by far the largest ever discovered on Earth," says geologist William Sager, who has studied the massive volcano for more than 20 years and who gave it the name "Tamu Massif." "It rivals in size some of the largest volcanoes in the solar system, such as Olympus Mons on Mars.”

That last statement might be a bit of a reach – Olympus Mons is not only the size of Arizona, it's also more than 70,000 feet tall. You'd have to stack five or six Tamu Massifs on top of each other to reach that high. (The largest active volcano on Earth is Mauna Loa in Hawaii, which stands 33,000 feet tall, but has a footprint only about 2,000 square miles.)

Tamu Massif gets its name from Texas A&M University (TAMU), where Sager worked and taught for 29 yearsMassif is a loosely defined geological term for any mountain-sized feature, from the French word for massive.

Sager and his team had been studying a large underwater area about halfway between Japan and Hawaii, known as the Shatsky Rise. After identifying three mounds in the plateau, he says, "We got tired of referring to them as the one on the left, the one on the right, and the big one."


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