Curio: The Pacific "Ring of Fire"
The tragic earthquakes of the last few days in Japan and Ecuador have occurred in what is known as the "Ring of Fire" in the Pacific Ocean. This name indicates the areas around the edges of tectonic plates with active and inactive volcanoes (hence the "fire"), but these edges are also areas of seismic activity more broadly, including earthquakes. This map shows that the ring goes from the Pacific west of Australia, follows Japan as it skirts the Asian continent, follows the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska, then travels down the west coasts of North and South America. The friction of the tectonic plates as they move alongside, over, and/or under each other are what cause earthquakes and volcanoes, and sometimes result in tsunamis. The Ring of Fire contains 75% of Earth's active volcanoes and is the location of approximately 90% of all earthquakes. The devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people arose from a Ring of Fire quake. The two Japan quakes that have occurred in the last week were magnitudes 6.2 and 7.0 and the one in Ecuador was 7.8. Although these are not the very largest, they are significant. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake was a 7.8, one of the most devastating in US history, and the largest ever recorded was in Chile in 1960 at a 9.5.
Image credit: Earth Observatory of Singapore