• Sara Thompson

And It Burns, Burns, Burns…

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise


Map of the ring of fire
Volcanic arcs and oceanic trenches partly encircling the Pacific Ring of Fire, a zone of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions

The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe-shaped band that rings much of the Pacific Ocean. Nearly 75% of the Earth’s volcanos are located along its 25,000 miles length. It is estimated to have contained close to 1000 volcanoes in the past 12,000 years, with over 350 of those being active in recorded history. Along with containing a majority of the planet’s volcanoes, almost 90% of earthquakes also occur in the Ring of Fire.


The movement and collision of tectonic plates are what formed the Ring of Fire. Most of the plate boundaries that make up the Ring of Fire are subduction zones, where one plate will slide under another and be recycled in the mantle. The recycling of the rock generates the formation of magma within the crust and upper mantle, creating ideal conditions for volcano formations.


The Ring of Fire is not a continuous string of volcanoes. There are places along it that do not have volcanoes, such as in North America between Northern Mexico and much of California, with volcanoes beginning again in the Cascades of the northern most parts of California, Oregon, Washington, and into Canada. The gap in volcanoes in North America, and in other places are due to a lack of subduction zones and instead are at transform plate boundaries, where the plates are sliding along each other in opposite directions, instead on one on top of another. The San Andreas Fault being a transform plate boundary that results in the North American volcanic gap mentioned earlier.


Although globally recognized, the Ring of Fire is not a single geologic structure, but rather a series of structures all formed by similar conditions. A volcano or earthquake happening in one part of the Ring, has no effect on other volcanoes in other parts of the Ring. Both the largest recorded volcanic eruption and the largest earthquake have occurred in the Ring of Fire. The largest recorded volcanic eruption happened in 1815 in Indonesia by Mount Tambora. On the opposite side of the Ring in Chile, the strongest earthquake was recorded in 1960 at 9.5 of 10 on the Richter scale.


Campers in this week’s Earth Explorations camp learned about the Ring of Fire along with volcanos and plate tectonics. Campers learned about other forces that shape our earth including wind, water, glaciers, and more! Explorit has extended our After-school camps through May, and plenty of spaces are still available. Camps are Monday-Friday from 3:30-5:30pm for students in grades K-6. Price is $120 Members/$145 Non-Members. Additional information and registration can be found at https://www.explorit.org/camps.

Explorit's coming events:

• Explorit’s Summer Science Camp is back for 2021! Beginning in June and running through to the beginning of August, our camps are filled with fun, hands-on science activities. Summer camp runs from 8:00-11:15am Monday-Friday. Fee for summer camp is $175 for Members/$200 for Non-Members. Available camps are designed for grades K-3, 1-4, and 4-6. Visit https://www.explorit.org/camps for more information and registration.

• Due to COVID-19 restrictions and the health and safety of our staff and visitors, our gallery will remain closed. Staff regularly check messages and email.

• Like many small businesses the closures have had a significant impact on our income and sustainability. Now is a great time to donate and help Explorit continue to educate and inspire the scientists of tomorrow: https://www.explorit.org/donate.

• Continue to support Explorit during this uncertain time by becoming a member. An Exploit Membership not only support us but grants the recipient with free visits to Explorit’s regular public hours, discounts on events, summer and after-school camps, and workshops, and gives you ASTC benefits to visit other museums throughout the world. For more information visit https://www.explorit.org/membership or call Explorit at 530-756-0191.