Scientists Say: Ring of Fire

This belt of earthquake sites and volcanoes sits on the edges of the Pacific Ocean

an aerial image of Indonesia’s Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park with an orange sky

Indonesia’s Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, located in the Ring of Fire, is home to many active volcanoes. The cratered peak is Mount Bromo, an active volcano.

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Ring of Fire (noun, “RING OF FYE-er”)

This term describes an area on Earth that holds most of the world’s earthquake sites and active volcanoes. The Ring of Fire gets its name from all of the volcanoes that lie along this belt. Roughly 75 percent of the world’s volcanoes are located here, many underwater. This area is also a hub of seismic activity, or earthquakes. Ninety percent of earthquakes occur in this zone.

The Ring of Fire stretches about 40,000 kilometers (24,900 miles). It is located on the edges of the Pacific Ocean. This belt sits atop places where many of the Earth’s tectonic plates meet. Tectonic plates are enormous pieces of the Earth’s outer layer. Some plates are as big — or even bigger than — entire continents. These plates can move, rubbing up against each other or one sliding below another. This slipping and sliding can produce earthquakes and volcanoes.

Sometimes eruptions and earthquakes happen within a few days in distant places along the Ring of Fire. That doesn’t mean that their activity is linked. An earthquake or volcano in one place doesn’t trigger other ones far away.

In a sentence

The Ring of Fire is home to many of the world’s volcanoes.

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a map showing where the ring of fire is located
The Ring of Fire lies on the edges of the Pacific Ocean. It follows the Andes Mountains in South America. It traces the West Coast of the United States and the chain of Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska. Then, it passes along Asia, down through Japan and through many island nations, such as the Philippines and Indonesia. Finally, the Ring of Fire sweeps to the east of the continent of Australia and passes through New Zealand.Gringer/Wikimedia Commons

Carolyn Wilke is a former staff writer at Science News Explores. She has a Ph.D. in environmental engineering. Carolyn enjoys writing about chemistry, microbes and the environment. She also loves playing with her cat.

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