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An immense shield volcano within the Shatsky Rise oceanic plateau, northwest Pacific Ocean

Nature Geoscience volume 6, pages 976981 (2013) | Download Citation

Abstract

Most oceanic plateaux are massive basaltic volcanoes. However, the structure of these volcanoes, and how they erupt and evolve, is unclear, because they are remote and submerged beneath the oceans. Here we use multichannel seismic profiles and rock samples taken from Integrated Ocean Drilling Program core sites to analyse the structure of the Tamu Massif, the oldest and largest edifice of the Shatsky Rise oceanic plateau in the north-western Pacific Ocean. We show that the Tamu Massif is a single, immense volcano, constructed from massive lava flows that emanated from the volcano centre to form a broad, shield-like shape. The volcano has anomalously low slopes, probably due to the high effusion rates of the erupting lavas. We suggest that the Tamu Massif could be the largest single volcano on Earth and that it is comparable in size to the largest volcano in the Solar System, Olympus Mons on Mars. Our data document a class of oceanic volcanoes that is distinguished by its size and morphology from the thousands of seamounts found throughout the oceans.

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Change history

  • Corrected online 06 September 2013

    In the version of this Article originally published online, the published online date should have read '5 September 2013'. This has been corrected in the PDF and HTML versions of the Article.

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Acknowledgements

This research used data provided by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. IODP is sponsored by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and participating countries under management by Consortium for Ocean Leadership. We thank the captain and crew onboard the R/V Marcus G. Langseth for assistance in collecting seismic data. We gratefully acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Robert Steinhaus and his team for seismic data acquisition. This research was supported by NSF grants OCE-0926611 and OCE-0926945.

Author information

Author notes

    • William W. Sager

    Present address: Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Houston, Houston, Texas 77204, USA

    • John J. Mahoney

    Deceased

Affiliations

  1. Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-3146, USA

    • William W. Sager
    •  & Jinchang Zhang
  2. Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA

    • Jun Korenaga
  3. Department of Geology and Paleontology, National Museum of Nature and Science, Tsukuba 305-0005, Japan

    • Takashi Sano
  4. College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA

    • Anthony A. P. Koppers
  5. Department of Earth and Environment, Earth, and Ecosystems, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK

    • Mike Widdowson
  6. Department of Geology and Geophysics, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA

    • John J. Mahoney

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Contributions

Seismic data were collected by W.W.S., J.Z. and J.K., with processing by J.Z. Authors W.W.S., A.A.P.K., J.J.M., T.S. and M.W. collaborated on IODP Expedition 324 and assimilated those findings into this study. The manuscript was written by W.W.S. with extensive input from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to William W. Sager.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1934