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Hawaii’s Pūhāhonu: Earth’s Largest Volcano Discovered Underneath Two Rocky Peaks




  • Pūhāhonu stands at only 170 feet above sea level.
  • Scientists used quantitative modeling to determine that the volcano is twice larger than Mauna Loa.
  • It is also considered as the hottest volcano in the world.

Mauna Loa is considered as the largest shield volcano in the world, towering over every other volcano in Hawaii as it stands more than 30,085 feet from base to summit. But a new study says that an extinct volcano in the same archipelago is actually the largest.

Pūhāhonu, which is located at the Northwestern Hawaii Islands and is composed of two barren peaks, stands at only 170 feet above sea level. However, University of Hawai’i scientists claim that it is much larger than Mauna Loa.

Pūhāhonu stands at only 170 feet above sea level.

According to their published study in the Earth and Planetary Science Letters journal, the scientists performed a survey on the ocean floor to determine the size of the volcano.

Using quantitative modeling, they were able to tell that Pūhāhonu is about 171 miles in length and 56 miles in width.

This makes it twice bigger than Mauna Loa.

Michael Garcia, lead author of the study, said:

“Pūhāhonu is massive. Rapid loading of the crust causes it to subside. When a giant volcano forms, the hot mantle flows away from the weight allowing the volcano to sink.”

The extinct volcano can be found about 1,000 kilometers north west of Honolulu. Its name, Pūhāhonu, means “turtle surfacing for air” in Hawaiian.

The volcano was first sighted in 1820 by American whaler Maro. It was a Russian vessel that first landed on it in 1828.

Being the largest volcano in the world is not the only distinction that Pūhāhonu holds. It is also considered as the hottest one.

Garcia explained that the two factors are interconnected.

“Volume and temperature go hand in hand. Large volume comes from hot magma. It is more likely to erupt if it is hot.”

Garcia likewise pointed out that while discovering the “new largest shield volcano” today may sound surprising to many, people have to keep in mind that “we know more about the surface of Mars than what is below the ocean on Earth.”

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