What is the Ring of Fire? No, we’re not talking about the Johnny Cash song here, but rather, the 25,000 mile area around the Pacific Ocean known for high levels of seismic activity and volcanoes.
What is the Ring of Fire?
Also sometimes called the Circum-Pacific Belt, the Ring of Fire runs along the convergent boundaries of many tectonic plates. These plates are constantly sliding around, colliding with each other, and moving above and below one another. These movements create deep ocean trenches and can cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions around the areas where the plates collide.
The Ring of Fire includes over 450 volcanoes, many of which remain active today. The Ring, which is probably more accurately described as a horseshoe, spans from New Zealand all the way up to Siberia and Alaska, and back down to Chile, all while passing many coasts in Asia and America.
Records Held by the Ring of Fire
All the activity around the Ring of Fire is responsible for roughly 90% of all earthquakes worldwide. This includes behemoth earthquakes, like the massive 1960 Valdivia Earthquake in Chile, the strongest ever recorded.
It is also estimated that the Ring of Fire is home to about 75% of all Earth’s active and dormant volcanoes. In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted, which was one of the largest ever recorded. Ash from the eruption spread around the world, and is thought to have lowered global temperatures, an event sometimes known as the Year Without a Summer.
Within the Ring of Fire is also the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans. It is located near Guam and is nearly 7 miles deep!
How Does the Ring of Fire Trigger Earthquakes?
As energy comes out from the earth’s core, it causes tectonic plates to move and sometimes bang into each other, causing a lot of friction. This is something that happens frequently within the Ring of Fire. The friction created builds up energy which is then released. The releasing of this energy causes what we refer to as an earthquake. When this occurs at sea or near coastal areas, the result can be a tsunami.
As the Ring of Fire has a high concentration of tectonic plates constantly rubbing into each other, earthquakes in the region are fairly common.
How Dangerous is the Ring of Fire?
While scientists are getting better at predicting seismic activity in advance, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can occur suddenly at any time. When major natural disasters like this occur, the results can be catastrophic. So there are definite risks to living in areas around the Ring of Fire.
That said, millions of people live in cities and regions that are directly within the Ring of Fire. New Zealand, much of Southeast Asia, Japan, and the entire west coast of North and South America all fall into this zone. While the people living in these regions are largely aware of the danger associated with living in a seismically active area, this has little effect on most people’s day-to-day lives.
That is, until disaster does strike. Let’s just hope the Big One doesn’t come anytime soon.