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252

Ring of Fire

OLogy Series
geology
card
252

Ring of Fire

OLogy Series
geology

If you marked every active volcano in the world on a map, you'd start to notice a pattern. Most of the world's active volcanoes are on the edges of the tectonic plates that make up the Earth's crust. You might also notice a large chain of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean. This circle, called the Ring of Fire, follows the edge of the Pacific Plate. More than half of the world's named volcanoes occur around the Ring of Fire.

Volcanoes around the Ring of Fire are mostly caused by the subduction of the Pacific Plate. That means the Pacific Plate is:

moving away from other plates

moving over other plates

moving under other plates

Are you right?

Correct!

The crust of the Pacific Plate is the thinner, denser oceanic crust. It moves under the thicker, lighter continental crust of the surrounding plates. The oceanic crust is pushed down into the mantle, where it causes melting to form the magma that fuels volcanic eruptions.

Which countries border the Ring of Fire?

Japan and the United States

Portugal and Ireland

Australia and Greenland

Are you right?

Correct!

The Ring of Fire stretches from East Asia, right along the coast of Japan, across to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, and then down the west coast of North America and South America.

Jim Webster, Earth scientist

The edges of the Earth's tectonic plates are very active with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The world's largest deposits of copper metal are also found there.

Many of the world's earthquakes also occur around the Ring of Fire.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Recent earthquakes around the Ring of Fire include the ones that hit Kobe, Japan, in 1995 and San Francisco, California, in 1989.

The volcanic islands of Hawaii are part of the Ring of Fire.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Hawaiian volcanoes are right in the middle of the Ring of Fire, but they're not part of it. They formed over a hot spot, an intensely hot area that extends deep into the Earth's mantle.

Definition: a large circle of explosive volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean
Claim to fame: site of most of the world's named volcanoes
Cause: subduction of the Pacific Plate under surrounding plates
Type of volcanoes: explosive
Famous volcanoes: Mount St. Helens in Washington State and Mount Fuji in Japan

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH; Jim Webster: courtesy of AMNH.