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Hawaii’s Undersea Pūhāhonu is the largest and hottest volcano on Earth

In 1974, based on data from a limited study, it was thought that Pūhāhonu was the largest volcano in Hawaii. Pūhāhonu was then called Gardner Pinnacles after two barren rocky islands, the only remains of the volcano that protrude above the sea.

Later studies of the Hawaiian Islands concluded that Mauna Loa was the largest volcano. Those studies also included the base of the volcano under the sea, which was not included in the 1974 study.

The new study, based on extensive research and various models, using methods such as the studies that declared Mauna loa the greatest, now shows that Pūhāhonu is indeed the largest volcano.

The study also highlights the fact that Hawaii’s volcanoes, not only for millions of years, have been ejecting from the hottest magma on Earth. Pūhāhonu’s lava contains 91.8 percent fosterite, the highest percentage of that mineral ever found in Hawaiian lava. That high percentage means, according to the researchers, that the basalt of the volcano has the highest melting point of all basalt from the Cenozoic, the period that runs from 66 million years ago to the present.

Finally, the researchers say they prefer the Hawaiian name Pūhāhonu, which means ‘turtle that emerges for air’ over the western name Gardner Pinnacles. “We want to share with the scientific community and the general public that we should name this volcano with the name given to it by the Hawaiians, rather than with the Western name for the two small, rocky islets that are the only remains above the rise out of this volcano that was once majestic, “said Garcia.

The study by Garcia and colleagues from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa is published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. This article is based on a press release from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

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