‘Ring of Fire’: Why 100 Great Earthquakes Happen Every Year

People everywhere are fascinated by the shaking of the ground. What is even more fascinating is that earthquakes are commonplace.

Here’s an interesting fact: About 20,000 earthquakes occur worldwide each year, or about 55 per day, according to the National Center for Earthquake Information, which operates under the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

A higher estimate, however, indicates that around 500,000 detectable earthquakes occur every year – 100,000 of them can be felt – and around 100 of them cause damage.

What causes earthquakes?

It goes back to tectonic plates: they always move, albeit slowly, but get stuck on their edges due to friction. Earthquakes occur due to a sudden slip across a fault – or a sudden release of stress along faults – in the earth’s crust.

As these plates continue to move, this causes a constant buildup of pressure in the rock strata on both sides of a fault – until the stress becomes so great that it is released in a sudden movement. and jerky.

An earthquake releases energy in “waves”, measured using the Richter scale. These waves pass through the earth’s crust and cause the tremors we feel.

Image Credit: Gulf News | USGS

Why is the Pacific Rim called the “Ring of Fire”?

The “Pacific Ring of Fire” lies near the “Belt of Earthquakes” – so called because more than 80% of the total of approximately 1,450 active volcanoes are concentrated in this region.

It is also known as the “Rim of Fire”, where volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur regularly.

These include 40 active volcanoes in the Andes (South America), nearly 300 in the Philippines (most dormant or extinct), 70 in Indonesia and 40 in Japan.

Pacific Ring of Fire

Image credit: AFP

The floor of the Pacific Ocean forms a massive plate, which also includes the western side of the Americas. The Pacific Plate “squeals” northwest past the North American Plate at a rate of about two inches per year.

Parts of the San Andreas Fault system accommodate this movement by constant “creep” resulting in many small shocks and a few moderate earthquakes.

Which countries are within this “ring”?

This Pacific Ring of Fire spans the continents of Antarctica, South America, North America, Asia, and the islands of the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Countries | territories include:

Ecuador Peru
Costa Rica
El Salvador
United States
Papua New Guinea
solomon islands
New Zealand

Why is there no “Atlantic Ring of Fire”, or around other oceans?

The “Pacific Ring of Fire” is a vast area, the largest ocean in the world. This edge sees active plate tectonic movements and collisions of “lithospheric” plates – oceanic crust with part of the upper mantle – plates.

It is through this constant movement of tectonic plates that ocean trenches, earthquakes, mountains and volcanoes arise.

Compared to the Pacific, however, things are much calmer in the Atlantic. While the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (which formed Iceland) is the third most prominent seismic belt, the Atlantic oceanic lithospheric plate has not begun to sink along the margins – yet, according to the scientific site phys.org.


number of active or potentially active volcanoes known in the world (excluding volcanoes at the bottom of the sea).

One estimate says it would take another 20 million years before the continents around the Atlantic develop active continental margins – enough to produce more earthquakes and trigger volcanic eruptions.

Mount Everest

HOW IS MT EVEREST STILL GROWING? As you read this, the collision between continental plates is occurring. For example, the Indian subcontinent continues to move northward at 5 cm (2 inches) per year, causing Mount Everest to grow by about 4 mm per year. Other parts of the Himalayas are rising about 10 mm (1/4 inch) per year. This pattern of movement dates back 50 million years. This is how the Himalayan mountain range and the Tibetan plateau were formed, the Indian tectonic plate colliding with the “Eurasian” plate. It continues until today. This is the reason why the highest peak in the world continues to grow.

How do tectonic plate collisions create volcanoes and earthquakes?

When tectonic plates collide, the impact can be one of two scenarios:

[1] The edges of one or both plates may warp into a mountain range;
[2] One of the plates can bend into a deep trench in the seabed.

A “chain” of volcanoes often forms parallel to the convergent plate boundaries, and powerful earthquakes are common along these boundaries.

About 80% of volcanoes are found along subduction zones and 15% along rift zones. This is when the “true” fully active subduction zones will be formed.

How many volcanoes are there in the world?

Currently, there are about 1,450 known active or potentially active volcanoes in the world. This does not include the continuous belts of volcanoes on the ocean floor at places like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. More than 3 out of 10 volcanoes – about 500 out of 1,450 – have erupted throughout history.

What do volcanoes have to do with earthquakes?

They are both caused by the movements of the Earth’s tectonic plates, which result in the release of heat and energy from the Earth’s core. Earthquakes can trigger volcanic eruptions through the movement of tectonic plates. Similarly, volcanoes can trigger earthquakes by the movement of magma inside a volcano.

Mount Pinatubo, the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, is on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, an hour’s drive from Manila. Around 800 people were killed and 100,000 made homeless when it erupted in 1991.

The events of the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption began in July 1990, when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of the volcano area, and was determined to bring about his “awakening”.

When Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, the cloud of ash and sulfate particles deflected enough sunlight to cool the planet.

Mount Pinatubo’s eruption culminated on June 15, 1991, when millions of tons of sulfur dioxide were released into the atmosphere, causing the world’s temperature to drop for the next few years.


Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal | Gulf News

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