Pacific Ring of Fire

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The Pacific Ring of Fire

The Pacific Ring of Fire is an area of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions encircling the basin of the Pacific Ocean. In a 40,000 km horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements. The Ring of Fire has 452 volcanoes and is home to over 75% of the world's active and dormant volcanoes. It is sometimes called the circumPacific belt or the circumPacific seismic belt.

Ninety percent of the world's earthquakes and 80% of the world's largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire. The next most seismic region (5–6% of earthquakes and 17% of the world's largest earthquakes) is the Alpide belt, which extends from Java to Sumatra through the Himalayas, the Mediterranean, and out into the Atlantic. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the third most prominent earthquake belt.<ref>U.S. Geological Survey Earthquakes FAQ.</ref><ref>U.S. Geological Survey Earthquakes Visual Glossary.</ref>

The Ring of Fire is a direct result and consequence of plate tectonics and the movement and collisions of crustal plates.<ref>Moving slabs [This Dynamic Earth, USGS].</ref> The eastern section of the ring is the result of the Nazca Plate and the Cocos Plate being subducted beneath the westward moving South American Plate. A portion of the Pacific Plate along with 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. Further west the Pacific plate is being subducted along the Kamchatka Peninsula arcs on south past Japan. The southern portion is more complex with a number of smaller tectonic plates in collision with the Pacific plate from the Mariana Islands, the Philippines, Bougainville, Tonga, and New Zealand. Indonesia lies between the Ring of Fire 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. The famous and very active San Andreas Fault zone of California is a transform fault which offsets a portion of the East Pacific Rise under southwestern United States and Mexico. The motion of the fault generates numerous small earthquakes, at multiple times a day, most of which are too small to be felt.<ref>Latest Earthquakes in the USA - Past 7 days, USGS.</ref><ref>Schulz, Sandra S., and Robert E. Wallace, "The San Andreas Fault", USGS.</ref> The active Queen Charlotte Fault on the west coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, Canada, has generated three large earthquakes during the 20th century: a magnitude 7 event in 1929, a magnitude 8.1 occurred in 1949 (Canada's largest recorded earthquake) and a magnitude 7.4 in 1970.<ref>Earthquakes in the Queen Charlotte Islands Region 1984-1996 Retrieved on 2007-10-03</ref>

The December 2004 earthquake just off the coast of Sumatra was actually a part of the Alpide belt.

Philippines

Map showing major volcanoes of the Philippines.

The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo is the world's second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. Successful predictions of the onset of the climactic eruption led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from the surrounding areas, saving many lives, but as the surrounding areas were severely damaged by pyroclastic flows, ash deposits, and later, lahars caused by rainwater remobilising earlier volcanic deposits, thousands of houses were destroyed.

Mayon Volcano overlooks a pastoral scene approximately five months before the volcano's violent eruption in September 1984.

Mayon Volcano is the Philippines' most active volcano. The volcano has steep upper slopes that average 35–40 degrees and is capped by a small summit crater. The historical eruptions of this basaltic-andesitic volcano dates back to 1616 and ranges from Strombolian to basaltic Plinian eruptions. Eruptions occur predominately from the central conduit and have also produced lava flows that travel far down the flanks. Pyroclastic flows and mudflows have commonly swept down many of the approximately 40 ravines that radiate from the summit and have often devastated populated lowland areas.

Taal Volcano has had 33 recorded eruptions since 1572. A devastating eruption occurred in 1911, which claimed more than a thousand lives. The deposits of that eruption consisted of a yellowish, fairly decomposed (non-juvenile) tephra with a high sulfur content. The most recent period of activity lasted from 1965 to 1977, and was characterized by the interaction of magma with the lake water, which produced violent phreatic explosions. Although the volcano has been dormant since 1977, it has shown signs of unrest since 1991, with strong seismic activity and ground fracturing events, as well as the formation of small mud geysers on parts of the island.

Kanlaon is the most active volcano in central Philippines and has erupted 25 times since 1866. Eruptions are typically phreatic explosions of small-to-moderate size that produce minor ashfalls near the volcano. On August 10, 1996, Kanlaon erupted without warning, killing British student Julian Green and Filipinos Noel Tragico and Neil Perez, who were among 24 mountainclimbers who were trapped near the summit.


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