The Pacific Ring of Fire is home to 75 percent of Earth’s active and dormant volcanoes.
“Ring of fire” is a term that describes a region known for its high volcanic and earthquake activity. Volatile subduction at the edges of the Pacific Tectonic Plate is where volcanoes form in the Pacific Ring of Fire. The particularly long Pacific Ring of Fire encircles the Pacific Ocean and spans nearly 40,000 km in length.
The crust of the Earth is made up of different plates that float on top of the mantle. These plates have constantly been in motion over the course of geological history. When two different plates collide, subduction sometimes occurs. Subduction is the process where one tectonic plates moves beneath another. Tectonic subduction creates high volcanic rates because of the process’ tendency to crack the Earth’s crust. These fractures allow magma to reach the surface and erupt in the form of volcanoes.
The world’s largest volcanic region can be found along the Pacific Ring of Fire. It is home to over 452 active and dormant volcanoes. Notable volcanoes include Mt. Saint Helens in Washington, Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, Mt. Fuji in Japan and the Paricutin Volcano in Mexico.
Mt. Saint Helens erupted most recently in 1980.
Large volcanic eruptions are usually preceded by weeks or months of small earthquakes and steam-venting episodes. Large bulges in mountains can often be seen prior to an eruption due to growing magma reservoirs. Major volcanic eruptions along the Pacific Ring of Fire include: El Chichón in Mexico (1982); Mt. Saint Helens in the United States (1980); Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines (1991); and Llaima in Chile (2008).
The volcanic activity of the Pacific Ring of Fire is responsible for creating islands and mountain chains around the Pacific Ocean. The island of Japan was created through the process of subduction, where the Pacific Plate slid under the Eurasian Plate. The Alaskan Aleutian Islands were created similarly and also exhibit volcanic activity.