Scientists from the University of Hawaii in Mānoa have shown that appearance can be deceiving.
Scientists examined the ocean floor and used quantitative models to determine that the volcano, which is approximately 171 miles long and 56 miles wide, has twice the size of the Mauna Loa.
“Pūhāhonu is huge,” reads the study. So much so that it is sinking the earth’s crust.
“Rapid loading of the rind causes it to disappear,” Michael Garcia, lead author of the study, told CNN. “When a giant volcano is formed, the warm coat flows away from the weight allowing the volcano to sink.”
Located approximately 1,000 kilometers northwest of Honolulu, the name Pūhāhonu translates to “air turtle surface” in Hawaiian. The small peaks above sea level have also been known as “Gardner Pinnacles”.
The American whaler Maro first spotted Pūhāhonu in 1820 and the crew of a Russian ship landed there for the first time in 1828. The volcano is now part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, established in 2006.
A 1974 study originally considered Pūhāhonu to be the largest volcano in the Hawaii-Emperor chain, based on limited survey data. Subsequent studies, which examined both what lies above and below the surface of the sea, concluded that Mauna Loa was the largest volcano. The present study updates this conclusion.
Pūhāhonu is not only the largest volcano in the world, it is also the warmest. The two are interconnected, said Garcia.
“Volume and temperature go hand in hand. Large volume comes from hot magma. It’s more likely to explode if it’s hot,” Garcia told CNN.
An analysis of the rocks sampled from the volcano was used to determine the magma temperature and found that it was around 1,700 degrees Celsius (3,092 degrees Farehenheit).
“Finding the largest shield volcano on Earth in the 21st century is a surprising discovery, but then we know more about the surface of Mars than what is under the ocean on Earth,” Garcia told CNN.
“We are still discovering things on our physical planet that we didn’t know. There is still much to learn on planet Earth.”
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