Ring of Fire

Where can you find the geographic phenomenon known as the Ring of Fire?

And the answer: Pacific Ocean.        

Photo credit: Christopher Michel

The Ring of Fire follows the edges of the Pacific Ocean, stretching in a horse-shoe shape from the South Pacific, up along Asia's east coast, and down the west coast of the Americas. The area is known for intense volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, caused by shifting tectonic plates.

Located along the convergence points of over ten major tectonic plates, the Ring of Fire is home to 75% of the world's volcanoes and 90% of its earthquakes. The plates are constantly in motion, which creates deep ocean trenches, volcanic eruptions and ground-shaking earthquakes. These unstable tectonic meeting points are called fault lines, and span over 25,000 miles in 15 countries.

When tectonic plates collide head on, they create what's called a convergent boundary. This forces one plate below the other, and often causes earthquakes along the way. As we speak, the Nazca oceanic plate is being driven down by the South American continental plate to create a subduction zone. Subduction zones often lift mountains and supply magma to the surface for volcanic activity. Sometimes, the collision is so immense that it creates extremely deep underwater chasms, such as the Mariana Trench. Part of a larger subduction zone, it contains the deepest point of any ocean on Earth. Called the "Challenger Deep," that area's floor lies 36,070 feet below sea level.

Did you know?

The Ring of Fire is a great producer of geothermal energy. The Earth's interior produces natural hot water reservoirs that can produce electricity without emitting greenhouse gasses. This renewable resource may be a popular alternative in the years to come.

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