A Few Facts About the Ring of Fire

Updated on June 11, 2018
harrynielsen profile image

Science has always fascinated me. This includes not only the ecological sciences, which I studied in school, but other endeavors, as well.

Potentially Destructive

Mt. Gallunggung in Java is considered to be one of the most active and potentially deadliest volcanoes on the planet.
Mt. Gallunggung in Java is considered to be one of the most active and potentially deadliest volcanoes on the planet.

A Ring of Fire

The term Ring of Fire has been around much longer than our understanding of Pacific geology and plate tectonics..Basically, the Ring of Fire includes all nations of South America, North America, Asia and Oceania with a sizable window on the Pacific Ocean.

The 25,000 mile ring begins in Chile runs north to Alaska and the USA, before cutting across the Pacific to Russia and Japan, which just happens to be one of the most seismic active nations on the planet. Finally, the ring cuts across the Phillipines and the South Pacific before ending up in New Zealand.

Locating the "Ring of Fire"

The Ring of Fire occurs along the edge of the Pacific Ocean
The Ring of Fire occurs along the edge of the Pacific Ocean | Source

A Large Number of Volcanoes and Earthquakes

According to scientists, 75% of the world's volcanoes can be found in the "Ring of Fire". This amounts to 452 volcanoes, both dormant and active. Furthermore, scientists and science researchers have found that around 90 per cent of the planet's earthquakes can be found along the "Ring of Fire", where the gigantic Pacific tectonic plate comes into contact with many smaller tectonic plates, located under land masses or the oceans.

The Pacific Ring of Fire

Underwater Volcanoes

Most of the active volcanoes within the Ring of Fire can be found under the sea. Under normal circumstances, this is not a situation of great concern, but keep in mind that the most explosive volcanoes are the ones that are able to mix sea water with air and magma, like the original Krakatoa did back in the 1880s.

Over the Years

During the past 11,700 years 22 of the 25 largest volcanic eruptions have occurred around the Ring of Fire. That's quite an impressive record, considering that many other regions like the Caribbean and the Mediterranean are home to some very powerful volcanoes.

A Map of the Earth's Tectonic Plates

In reality, the earth has many tectonic plates, both large and small.
In reality, the earth has many tectonic plates, both large and small. | Source

Pacific Plate Tectonics

Much of the volcanic and seismic activity on earth can be contributed to plate tectonics, a relatively new scientific concept that was brought forth in the 60s. Basically, this scientific theory states that the earth's surface consists of a solid surface, called the lithosphere. This layer of land actually floats atop the mantle core, which is believed to be a semi-solid. Furthermore, the lithosphere is not continuously solid, but consists of many plates, both large and small. When these plates push up against each other, the resulting friction may result in earthquakes and volcanoes.

By chance, the Pacific plate is one of the largest and most active plates on the planet..Since it is located under a large ocean, it is referred to as an oceanic plate. On the other hand plates situated under land masses are called continental plates. In general, oceanic plates are denser, but not as deep as continental plates.

A Painter Records History

It is now believed that the colorful skies in Edvard Munch's painting, The Scream, are a real-life depiction of fallout from Krakatoa, the monster Pacific volcano that erupted in 1883.
It is now believed that the colorful skies in Edvard Munch's painting, The Scream, are a real-life depiction of fallout from Krakatoa, the monster Pacific volcano that erupted in 1883. | Source

Krakatoa

Krakatoa is an ominous name that is forever etched into the human consciousness. Today, Krakatoa, is a small ring of islands, mere remnants of a giant volcano that blew its top back in 1883. So large was the eruption that the island almost disappeared into the sea and ash from the explosion effected global weather for several years.

Strangely enough, Edvard Munch's iconic painting, "The Scream" is now viewed by a few scientists and art historians, as a realistic rendering of one of the many spectacular sunsets that occurred in the months and years following the enormous Indonesian eruption.

Active Again

Beginning in 2009 Anak Krakatua (son of Krakatau) began erupting again
Beginning in 2009 Anak Krakatua (son of Krakatau) began erupting again | Source

Krakatoa Today

The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa was so strong that it blew away all 2,600 feet of mountain, leaving a new volcanic peak that was located some 820 feet below sea level. A few remnants of the larger island remained, forming a ring of islands, where once there had been just one solid piece of land.

This new mountain has been named Anak Krakatoa (son of Krakatoa). Since the late 1800s, the undersea peak has been growing and as of 1927. it is no longer located under the sea. Today, the Son of Krakatoa,rises over a thousand feet above the Indian Ocean and often sends up plumes of ash and occasionally fire. Within the last year, over 40,000 local villagers have been moved to safety, but if this new volcano should erupt, most scientists.seriously doubt that it would be as spectacular and destructive as the one in 1883. Nonetheless, Anak Krakatoa is always being closely watched.

Ring of Fire Active in 2018

Most Active and Dangerous Volcanoes Today

If you are interested (or concerned) as to which volcanoes are the most dangerous today, first of all, you must distinguish between most active and most dangerous. For instance, Mt. Ranier is occasionally listed as one of the most potentially dangerous volcanoes, but never as one of the most active. The opinion here is that if Ranier should blow its top, the blast could be quite deadly because of a large urban population living nearby.

However, within these lists, one thing is constant. The vast majority, usually 7 or 8 out of 10 of the world's most active volcanoes can be found within the Ring of Fire. Some of the leading contenders are the Merapi volcano in Indonesia, Sakurajima in southern Japan, Anak Krakatoa in Indonesia, Popocatepeti in Mexico and Changbaishan on the China-North Korea border. Incidentally, not all the most dangerous volcanoes are to be found around the Pacific Rim, for Italy, Iceland and the Congo are also home to some potentially destructive eruptions.

Kilauea in 1983

Pu'u 'O'o, a Volcanic cone on Kilauea, Hawaii.
Pu'u 'O'o, a Volcanic cone on Kilauea, Hawaii. | Source

Hawaii, Ring of Fire or Geothermal Hotspot?

Recent increased volcanic activity on the Big Island of Hawaii has placed the 50th state squarely in the international news circuit. Since the Hawaiian Islands sit in the middle of the "Ring of Fire", they are often included in stories about this unique geological region, even though recent scientific opinion suggests that there are different geological forces at work in the islands.

In 1963, Canadian geophysicist, John Tuzo Wilson, put forth an interesting scientific theory that at the time was quite controversial among geologists. According to Wilson, volcanic events on Hawaii are due to a very active geothermal hot spot that sits underneath the islands. This contrasts with the movement of tectonic plates, which are currently credited with making the Pacific Rim, so geologically active.

Sources

http://www.storypick.com/ring-of-fire-facts/ 8 Facts About the Ring of Fire

https://www.universetoday.com/73597/what-is-lithosphere/ What Is Lithosphere?

https://www.volcanodiscovery.com/krakatau.html Krakatau Volcano

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/press-releases/astronomical-sleuths-link-krakatoa-to-edvard-munchs-painting-the-scream/ Astronomical Sleuths Link Krakatoa to Edvard Munch's Painting The Scream

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/12/01/asias-three-most-dangerous-volcanoes/#36c3dd6613b2 Asia's Three Most Dangerous Volcanoes

https://www.britannica.com/science/plate-tectonics Plate Tectonics



Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Harry Nielsen

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      • harrynielsen profile imageAUTHOR

        Harry Nielsen 

        3 weeks ago from Durango, Colorado

        Thanks, Kilauea has put Hawaiian volcanoes and the Ring of Fire in the front of the news, even though, technically speaking, Hawaii is not part of the Ring of Fire. Unfortunately, it does not look like volcanic activity on the Big Island is going away anytime soon, so I guess we can expect to hear more news stories about volcanoes.

      • profile image

        thepersonworking 

        3 weeks ago

        this helps people learn about the ring of fire. cool

      • Tamarajo profile image

        Tamarajo 

        2 months ago

        Very interesting and well presented. The Krakatoa section was fascinating. I learned something new today.

      • Kenna McHugh profile image

        Kenna McHugh 

        2 months ago from Northern California

        Harry, Great information about the Ring of Fire is helpful in understanding how volcanoes function.

      • harrynielsen profile imageAUTHOR

        Harry Nielsen 

        2 months ago from Durango, Colorado

        You mean you didn't hear about that? (now thanks to the fluidity of the web, the Merapi volcano is back on the island of Java)

      • profile image

        Laughing out loud 

        2 months ago

        Merapi volcano in the Philippines? Seriously? Who moved it there? Superman?

      • harrynielsen profile imageAUTHOR

        Harry Nielsen 

        4 months ago from Durango, Colorado

        Like Jimmy Buffett once said, you don't know where you might land once the volcano blows.

      • CaribTales profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        5 months ago from The Caribbean

        Thank you for this science lesson--first about the Ring of Fire. However, I do know of some volcanoes in the Caribbean. Lord, please let them sleep.

      working

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