The world’s biggest volcano in terms of volume is Mauna Loa. It is one of the five volcanoes constituting Hawaii’s Big Island. It is made up of 75,000 cubic kilometers of material.
An active shield volcano, Mauna Loa came out of the ocean about 400,000 years ago. But scientists believe that it has been exploding for 700,000 years. The volcano’s magma emanates from the Hawaiian hotspot. Scientists have discovered the plate where the volcano rests is moving away.
This means that in a million years, Mauna Loa will cease to exist. The last eruption of the volcano was in 1984. Previously it had erupted in 1950 and 1926.
Above sea level, Mauna Loa is 4,169 meters high. When measured from the sea floor, the volcano’s height comes up to 9,000 meters. This makes it higher than Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth.
The Tallest Volcano
If height (not volume) is the criteria used, the world’s biggest volcano would be Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa’s neighbor. It is 4,205 meters above sea level. It is 40 m taller than Mauna Loa. Mauna Kea is Hawaiian for “the white mountain”. The name was chosen because snow covers its summit during winter.
The volcano’s eruption history began a million years ago. The Hawaiian hotspot provides it power. The hotspot is a volcanic vent that produces magma. As the Pacific Plate moves, islands are made. Its last eruption took place 4000-5000 years ago.
Mauna Kea’s high altitude makes it suitable for astronomical observations. Because it is 40% over the planet’s atmosphere, the skies are very clear. Several telescopes can be found there, including the Gemini North telescope and Keck observatories.
During wintertime, snow covers the volcano, ideal for skiing. 11,000 years ago, glaciers formed around it.
Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea may contend for the title of the world’s biggest volcano, but they are dwarfed by Olympus Mons, a volcanic mountain on Mars. Olympus Mons is 27 km high and 374 miles (624 km) in diameter. It is roughly the size of Arizona. It is big enough to fit the Hawaiian Islands.
Olympus Mons is so large that a person standing on Mars will not be able to see it in full. A person standing on the volcano’s summit will not be aware that they are on a mountain. The reason is the volcano’s slope goes beyond the horizon. The giant volcano is in the Tharsis region of the Red Planet.