The Pacific Ring of Fire , also called the Pacific Ring of Fire, is a common area to hear about in the news around the world, almost always related to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and erupting volcanoes.
What is the Pacific Ring of Fire
The bed of the Pacific Ocean is settled on several tectonic plates in constant friction. This causes these tectonic borders to have great seismic and volcanic activity , which gives rise to the Pacific belt or ring of fire , which is the line that forms this set of borders.
It is a dangerous area, since it concentrates 90% of the world’s earthquakes, in addition to 80% of the largest. If the question is how many volcanoes there are in the Pacific Ring of Fire, we can affirm that in this area there are 75% of both active and inactive volcanoes on the planet: no less than 452 volcanoes.
Pacific Ring of Fire map and list of countries
This Ring of Fire covers more than 40,000 km , in a horseshoe-shaped area that goes from New Zealand to the west coast of South America, passing through Asia, Alaska, North America and Central America.
It is delimited by the points where the Pacific plate meets the other smaller plates, giving rise to the most relevant subduction zones on the planet. All this great tectonic frontier covers a large number of countries. This is the list of countries in the Pacific Ring of Fire , arranged clockwise:
- Central America
- The United States
- Then it turns around the Aleutian Islands.
- Then it goes down the coasts and islands of Russia.
- Papua New Guinea
- New Zealand
The area has received the 10 most serious earthquakes of the current century and the past. Among the most important earthquakes that have occurred in the Pacific Ring of Fire are the magnitude 9 that Russia suffered in 1952 and caused a tsunami that hit Hawaii, the 8.8 magnitude between Ecuador and Colombia in 1906, which caused the deaths of 1000 people from the resulting tsunami and more recently, that of December 26, 2004 in Indonesia and Sumatra, whose tsunami recorded a quarter of a million deaths.
The complete list of volcanoes on this tectonic frontier is too long to cover them all, but we can mention the most important volcanoes in the Pacific Ring of Fire in recent years.
- We can start by mentioning Colombia, where in 1985 the Nevado del Ruiz volcano erupted. Although it was not a major eruption, four lahars formed, large flows of sediment and water, which devastated several surrounding towns, taking 23,000 lives.
- Three years earlier, in Mexico, El Chichó caused 3,500 deaths, and in Indosenia the Galunggung erupted. In 1980 there was the eruption of Mount Santa Helena, which was then believed out of danger. It was an eruption so violent that the relief of the mountain changed, with the summit collapsing and losing 400 meters of altitude.
- We cannot leave without mentioning the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii , a volcano designated as hyperactive by experts, since it has been in continuous eruption since 1982. However, in May 2018 it was spitting large amounts of lava, which destroyed large amounts of ground. This behavior, although spectacular, is not new in the volcano, which had already had a similar episode in 1955, in which it was constantly spitting lava for almost 3 months. The most dangerous thing about the Kilauea eruptions is that, being close to the coast, when the lava reaches the ocean it produces large clouds of toxic gas for humans, which have already caused deaths before.
- Another of the most devastating eruptions was that of the Krakatoa volcano , in 1883. It was so violent that it destroyed the island in several parts, killed more than 36,000 people and could be seen from up to 7,000 km away. It is estimated that the explosion had the power equivalent to 10,000 atomic bombs, which left sailors deaf for up to 50 km around.
- However, the deadliest volcanoes have erupted in more distant centuries, such as Mount Tambora in 1815 in Indonesia or Mount Unzen in Japan in 1792.