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Earthquake Zones

Most earthquakes happen at plate boundaries; there are many earthquakes of different sizes each year.

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The Pacific Ring of Fire

The Pacific Ring of Fire

Credit: Gringer
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pacific_Ring_of_Fire.svg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Most of the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions take place in the red band around the Pacific Ocean. Plate tectonics processes can explain why. The Pacific Ocean basin is shrinking as the Atlantic Ocean basin grows.

Why It Matters

  • 81% of major earthquakes and 90% of total earthquakes take place around the Pacific Ring of fire.
  • There were 17 earthquakes M 6.0 and greater in the month preceding November 4, 2013: 16 around the Pacific basin (94%) and 1 in the Mediterranean (6%).
  • Lining the Pacific basin are 75% of the active volcanoes, 450 volcanoes in all.
  • The Casacde Volcanoes make up part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. They span a distance of over 700 miles and include major cities along the western coast of North America. Two of these volcanoes infamously erupted in the 20th century. Mount Lassen experienced a series of eruptions from 1915-1917 and Mount St. Helens's explosion in 1980 killed 57 people.
  • Credit: NASA
    Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cascade_Volcanic_Arc.jpg
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Map of the Cascadia Volcanic Arc [Figure2]

Show What You Know

With the links below, learn more about the Pacific Ring of Fire. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Use the earthquake list to determine the number of earthquakes M6.0 or greater in the past 30 days at the time you read this. What is the percentage that takes place around the Pacific? Is it close to 81%? How might that number get closer to 81%?
  2. What is the ring of fire and how does it cause so many earthquakes?
  3. How does subduction cause magma to form and create volcanoes?
  4. Japan was devastated by the M 9.0 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. How would the devastation compare if a similar sized earthquake struck California?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Gringer; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pacific_Ring_of_Fire.svg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: NASA; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cascade_Volcanic_Arc.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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