Volcanoes 101

About 1,500 active volcanoes can be found around the world. Learn about the major types of volcanoes, the geological process behind eruptions, and where the most destructive volcanic eruption ever witnessed occurred.

The Ring of Fire is a roughly 25,000-mile chain of volcanoes and seismically active sites that outline the Pacific Ocean.

Also known as the Circum-Pacific Belt, the Ring of Fire traces the meeting points of many tectonic plates, including the Eurasian, North American, Juan de Fuca, Cocos, Caribbean, Nazca, Antarctic, Indian, Australian, Philippine, and other smaller plates, which all encircle the large Pacific Plate.

The plates are constantly sliding past, colliding into, or moving above or below each other. This movement results in deep ocean trenches, volcanic eruptions, and earthquake epicenters along the boundaries where the plates meet, called fault lines.

The Ring of Fire is home to the deepest ocean trench, called the Mariana Trench. Located east of Guam, the 7-mile-deep Mariana Trench formed when one tectonic place was pushed under another.

The tectonic activity along the Ring of Fire also results in about 90% of the world’s earthquakes, including the Valdivia Earthquake of Chile in 1960, the strongest recorded earthquake at 9.5 out of 10 on the Richter scale.

The Ring of Fire is also where an estimated 75% of the planet’s volcanoes are located, such as Mount Tambora of Indonesia, which erupted in 1815 and became the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history.

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