Largest Volcano on Earth! I’ll Drink to That!

tamu3d_custom-f47011008caf65f28d9d03157a541e154007ba39-s40-c85Last week scientists discovered the largest volcano on earth and near the largest in the solar system. The volcano, named Tamu Massif, is located 990 miles (1600 km) east of Japan.  The base of Tamu Massif occurs a seafloor 4 miles (6.4 km) deep and rises to 1.2 miles (1.98 km) below the surface.  This makes Tamu Massif around 2.73 miles tall (4.4 km).  The dome extends over 100,000 square miles (260, 000 square km).  In comparison the current record holder for largest volcano on earth is Mauna Loa on Hawaii with an area of 1900 square miles (5,000 square kilometers).  This size places Tamu Massif about half the size of the largest volcano in our solar systems, Olympus Mons on Mars.

Wait, how did the largest volcano on our planet go undetected?  First the summit of Tamu Massif is located well below the ocean’s surface.  Second, it was unclear whether the many lava flows of Tamu Massif represented several individual volcanoes with independent flows or lava of single origin.

As quoted at NPR

The volcano is part of a larger underwater feature known as the Shatsky Rise, but only in the past few years has Sager’s team been able to determine that it’s a single volcano. “We knew it was a big mountain, some sort of volcanic mountain, but oceanic plateaus are very large features hidden beneath the ocean and it’s very hard to study them,” Sager says.

“The main thing was the imaging we were able to do a few years ago, but without sort of the ground truth provided by samples that we drilled out of this thing, we wouldn’t have had nearly as compelling a result,” he tells NPR.

Sager says before the discovery that Tamu Massif is a single volcano, scientists had expected that “something this big must be made up of a large number of volcanoes, two, three, four dozen, you just don’t know.”

So where did the name originate?  The researchers are Aggies (Texas A&M University or TAMU for short).  A massif refers to a group of mountains formed by a part of the crust being displaced as whole.

So what do we do know that the largest volcano is discovered on Earth? Drink in celebration!


3/4 oz raspberry liqueur

3/4 oz Blue Curacao liqueur


To make a TAMU Massif Volcano multiply all ingredients by 1000 and make in a swimming pool.

The Flaming Volcano Cocktail.  DSN doesn't condone the use of fire and alcohol at the same time.  No good came come of this.

The Flaming Volcano Cocktail. DSN doesn’t condone the use of fire and alcohol at the same time. No good came come of this.


Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

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