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Explosive Discovery: Massive Volcanic 'Superstructure' Bigger Than Idaho Lurking Beneath Pacific Ocean

'Superstructure' Building Huge Plateau Under Pacific, Study Says
Source: MEGA

A "seamount" underwater volcano exploding near Tonga in 2019.

Jan. 16 2024, Published 9:04 a.m. ET

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Volcanoes are lurking beneath Earth's oceans and they're growing and creating new land masses.

Recent revelations shed light on an intriguing phenomenon in the western Pacific Ocean, known as the Melanesian Border Plateau. While it may not fit the conventional definition of "land" since it's not visible on the surface, this plateau is a growing underwater ridge.

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Scientific findings introduce the term "Oceanic Mid-Plate Superstructure" to describe the source of this unique geological feature. According to a study in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, an OMS represents a volcanic structure constructed through “multiple pulses of volcanism.”

The Melanesian Border Plateau boasts a remarkable composition, hosting at least 25 distinct volcanic structures, as outlined in the study conducted at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. While the precise age of these structures remains uncertain, it is suggested that their formation may have commenced around 120 million years ago.

Dr. Kevin Konrad, the lead researcher, led a 2013 expedition to collect rock samples from the plateau, situated east of the Solomon Islands.

Konrad noted that, at first glance, some samples from the Pacific Ocean might resemble a single massive magma event. However, upon detailed examination, it becomes evident that these features evolved over multiple pulses spanning tens of millions of years, with minimal environmental impact, Live Science reported.

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Scientists emphasize the significance of undersea explosions, stating they could provide insights into past extinctions. Additionally, such explosions contribute to the creation of scientific "hotspots," where heated material ascends from the ocean floor — a process believed to have played a role in the formation of the Hawaiian Islands.

Konrad and his team propose a similar phenomenon occurring with the Samoan Islands, suggesting that an undersea chain of mountains, known as a "seamount," eroded and drifted over a hotspot.

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The magnitude of the plateau under Konrad's investigation is noteworthy, exceeding the size of Idaho, the 14th largest state.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is actively researching other hotspots and seamounts in the South Pacific, anticipating further complexity as detailed sampling is conducted.

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