The Ring of Fire, also called Circum-Pacific Belt or Pacific Ring of Fire, is a long horseshoe-shaped area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean that is a seismically active belt of earthquake epicentres, volcanoes, and tectonic plate boundaries. Much of its 40,000-km (24,900-mile) length is associated with volcanoes, containing around 452 which is more than 75 per cent of the world's active and dormant volcanoes. About 90 per cent of the world's earthquakes and about 81 per cent of the world's largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire, hence its name.
Major volcanic events that have occurred in the area since 1800 include the eruptions of Mount Tambora (1815), Krakatoa (1883), Novarupta (1912), Mount Saint Helens (1980), Mount Ruiz (1985), and Mount Pinatubo (1991), and it has been the setting for several of the largest earthquakes in recorded history. The next most seismically active region is the Alpide belt, which extends from Java to the northern Atlantic Ocean via the Himalayas and southern Europe, which witnesses 5–6 per cent of earthquakes and 17 per cent of the world's largest earthquakes.
Countries at highest risk of being struck by an earthquake in the Ring of Fire are in the US west coast, Chile, Japan and Pacific islands like the Solomon Islands. Other countries along the fault line include Mexico, Antarctica, Russia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Canada, Peru, Taiwan, New Zealand, Philippines, and Guatemala.
In the 19th century, it was observed that a belt of volcanic activity surrounded the Pacific Ocean brought about by plate tectonics: the movement and collisions of lithospheric plates. Tectonic plates are huge slabs of the Earth’s crust, which fit together like pieces of a puzzle, but they are not fixed and are constantly moving atop a layer of solid and molten rock called the mantle. Sometimes the plates collide, move apart or slide next to each other. The amount of movement of tectonic plates in the area brings about volcanoes and earthquakes.
Three things are created when plates move, namely, Convergent Boundaries, Divergent Boundaries, and Transform Boundaries. A convergent plate boundary is formed by tectonic plates crashing into each other, a divergent boundary is formed by tectonic plates pulling apart from each other, and a transform boundary is formed as tectonic plates slide horizontally past each other.
ACTIVE VOLCANOES IN THE RING OF FIRE
Most of the active volcanoes are found on the western edge of the Ring of Fire, from the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, through the islands of Japan and Southeast Asia, to New Zealand. Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand is one of the more active volcanoes in the Ring of Fire, with yearly minor eruptions, and major eruptions occurring about every 50 years. Krakatau, perhaps better known as Krakatoa, is an island volcano in Indonesia. Krakatoa erupts less often than Mount Ruapehu, but much more spectacularly.
Japan’s tallest and most famous mountain, Mount Fuji, is an active volcano in the Ring of Fire. Mount Fuji last erupted in 1707, but recent earthquake activity in eastern Japan may have put the volcano in a "critical state". Mount St. Helens, in the U.S. state of Washington, is an active volcano in the Cascade Mountains. Popocatepetl is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the Ring of Fire. The mountain is one of Mexico’s most active volcanoes, with 15 recorded eruptions since 1519.