While I’m sure most of us have heard about the Ring of Fire, I wonder how many of you are similar to myself and only know about and what it is, but that’s about it.
The Ring of Fire is the name given to a very large area that is hardly a ring, nor one made of fire. What it is, is an area contained with the Pacific Ocean where a plethora of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions happen more than any place in the world.
The “ring” is actually closer to a warped horseshoe in shape, as you can see from the image above, and Japan is completely engulfed by it, along with most of Indonesia, covering about 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles).
The ring loops from New Zealand to Chile, passing through the coasts of Asia and the Americas on the way.
Contained within the “ring” are more than 75 percent of the world’s volcanoes at 452 volcanoes (and counting).
Of the 25 biggest volcanic eruptions over the past 11,700 years (think 9682BC), 22 of them occurred within the Ring of Fire.
As well, approximately 90 percent of every earthquake in the planet occurs with the area also known as the curcum-Pacific belt. And, 81 percent of the world’s largest shakers happen within it.
The region is susceptible to disasters because it is home to a vast number of 'subduction zones', areas where tectonic plates overlap.
Plate tectonics basically describes the movement of the seven major plates, and the smaller plates of Earth’s lithosphere since they first began shifting about 3- to 3.5-billion years ago when the singular supercontinent of Pangea broke apart in what must have been the mother of all earthquakes!
Did you know that the seven continents as they are now are all are moving together to create another supercontinent called Panega Ultima? Of course, that won’t be for another 250 million years from now.
Earthquakes happen when subduction occurs, which is what happens when one lithospheric plate moves under another.
- The eastern section’s Nazca Plate and the Cocos Plate are subducted beneath the westward-moving South American Plate. As well, the Cocos Plate is subducted under the Caribbean Plate in Central America;
- A portion of the Pacific Plate and the small Juan de Fuca Plate are being subducted beneath the North American Plate;
- Along the northern portion, the northwestward-moving Pacific plate is being subducted beneath the Aleutian Islands arc;
- Farther west, the Pacific plate is being subducted along the Kamchatka Peninsula arcs on south past Japan;
- The southern portion has lots of smaller colliding with the Pacific plate from the Mariana Islands, the Philippines, Bougainville, Tonga, and New Zealand. Australia is NOT part of this one;
- Indonesia lies along the northeastern islands adjacent to and including New Guinea and the Alpide belt along the south and west from Sumatra, Java, Bali, Flores, and Timor;
- Then there’s the San Andreas Fault - the one we all expect to become super active one day turning Arizona into beachfront property a la Superman IV. This is a transform fault (a fault whose motion is predominantly horizontal) which offsets a portion of the East Pacific Rise under southwestern United States and Mexico;
- The active Queen Charlotte Fault on the west coast of the Haida Gwaii, British Columbia (Canada) has generated three large earthquakes during the 20th century: a magnitude 7 event in 1929; a magnitude 8.1 in 1949 (Canada's largest recorded earthquake); and a magnitude 7.4 in 1970. If you are keeping track, it’s about 28 years over-due.
Well, in case you have been sleeping under a volcanic rock, there have been a swathe of earthquakes within the Ring of Fire in:
- Hawaii (Magnitude 3.7 on January 23, 2018);
- Alaska (Magnitude 7.9 on January 23, 2018);
- Papua New Guinea (Magnitude 5.4 on January 23, 2018);
- Indonesia (Magnitude 6.0 on January 23, 2018);
- Chile (Magnitude 6.3 on January 20, 2018);
- Mexico (Magnitude 6.3 on January 19, 2018).
And, because scientists (and this guy) believe (but can not yet prove it) that earthquakes are related to volcanic activity and vice versa, Japan’s Mount Moto-Shirane, which is part of Mount Kusatsu-Shirane volcano in Gunma-ken exploded on January 23, 2018.
The eruption killed one man with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (陸上自衛隊, Rikujō Jieitai) via falling rocks, and injuring 11 others, including four after stones from the eruption hit a ski gondola lift.
Around 30 Ground Self-Defense Force troops of the 12th Brigade were performing ski training in the area at the time.
Now scientists don’t really believe that this recent string of “heavy” to mild seismic activity is related to one big seismic event.
The Ring of Fire is extremely active, and because it’s the media… it (we) like looking for links… you know… one large airplane goes down, and then all of a sudden the media is looking for other possible aviation accidents, usually getting its fill at the magic number of three.
I mean come on… see the Magnitude on the Hawaiian earthquake? Magnitude 3.7.
Back on June 23, 2010 and May 17, 2013, Toronto was “shaken” by Magnitude 5.0 and 5.1 earthquakes, respectively.
I was on the fifth floor of an office building during the former one… and it felt like a very loud and heavy truck was rumbling by on the streets below. That’s it. I’m betting no one in Hawaii felt that Magnitude 3.7 shaker… and if they did, they were probably the inspiration for the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen involving The Princess and the Pea.
In other words, chillax. You’ll know when you have to panic. Save the anxiety until then.