Eruption of underwater volcano 7,300 years ago was the largest in history

The underwater volcano Kikai-Akahoya has been responsible for three major eruptions in the last 140,000 years. The last of these happened 7,300 years ago south of the Japanese island of Kyushu, where the Philippine tectonic plate meets the Eurasian plate. The explosion was already known, but now researchers have discovered that it was the largest ever recorded in the planet's history.

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According to researchers, the eruption released more than twice as much rock and ash compared to that of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815, considered the strongest to date.

In the new study, the team gathered seismic data to create a detailed map of the seafloor around the Kikai-Akahoya volcano. The work revealed vast underwater deposits that were drilled at several points using a remotely controlled robot. The extracted sediment cores were then analyzed.

The Kikai-Akahoya volcano has surpassed eruptions like that of Mount Tambora, in Indonesia, in 1815 (Image: Shutterstock)

The materials revealed a 4,500-square-kilometer layer of volcanic glass corresponding to the composition and timing of the Kikai-Akahoya eruption. The debris totaled about 71 cubic kilometers of material ejected into the sea by the eruption, nearly double estimates published in previous research.

The researchers combined these findings with existing estimates of volcanic debris from the eruption that was deposited on land. They found that the mega-eruption spewed a total volume of 332 to 457 cubic kilometers of lava, enough to fill Lake Tahoe in the western United States twice.

Megaeruption expelled a total volume of 332 to 457 cubic kilometers of lava (Image: M. Patrick/USGS)

Largest eruption of the Holocene

  • The new study suggests that the Kikai-Akahoya eruption is “probably the largest eruption of the Holocene”, a geological epoch that began 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, and in which we still live today.
  • The researchers also concluded that the explosion was larger than that of the Santorini volcano.
  • However, it lags behind older events.
  • This is the case of the cataclysmic eruption of the supervolcano Toba, in Sumatra, 74 thousand years ago, which released around 5 thousand cubic kilometers of magma.
  • The study was published in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research.
  • The information is from Live Science.

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