Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, one of five volcanic peaks that together form the island of Hawaii. It is the tallest mountain in the world when measured from base to peak, its base being some 19,678 feet (5998 m) under the surface of the Pacific Ocean. In Hawaiian, mauna kea means "white mountain", a reference to the fact that it is regularly snow- or frost-capped during the northern hemisphere winter. Its highest point, Puu Wekiu (one of numerous cinder cones on the summit), is the highest point in the state of Hawaii at 13,796 feet (4,205 m).
After hundreds of thousands of years of building itself up by volcanic activity, the mountain's height is slowly decreasing as its massive weight depresses the Pacific seafloor.
Although snow and ice occur now mostly in the period from November through March, Mauna Kea had permanent (year-round) ice caps during the Pleistocene ice ages (Woodcock et al., 1970). The summit shows evidence of four periods of glaciation over the last 200,000 years, the last ending about 11,000 years ago, when the most recent ice age finished. The dense rock at the noted adz quarry near the summit is believed to have been formed when lava erupted under a glacier.
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