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Current Affairs

Ring of fire

Date: 21 January 2022 Tags: Geography & Environment

Issue

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, which exploded recently, is situated along the infamous Pacific ‘Ring of fire’.

 

Details

  • The Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ or Pacific Rim, or the Circum-Pacific Belt, is an area along the Pacific Ocean that is infamous for active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes.

  • About 75 per cent of the world’s volcanoes, numbering about 450, are located along the belt. More than 90% of world’s earthquakes take place here.

  • It is almost circular arc and spans for about 40,000 km along the coasts of New Zealand, Tonga, Kermadec Islands, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, western coast of North America and South America.

  • The region is made up of several tectonic plates such as Pacific plate, Philippine Plate, Juan de Fuca plate, Cocos plate, Nazca plate, and North American plate.

  • The movement of these tectonic plates makes the area witness abundant earthquakes and tsunamis every year.

 

Characteristics

  • The plates move towards each other slowly, creating subduction zones. During this process, rocks melt, become magma and move to Earth’s surface and cause volcanic activity.

  • The Tonga volcano occurred when the Pacific plate was pushed below Indo-Australian plate, causing molten rock to rise above and form the chain of volcanoes.

 

Formation of trenches

  • The trenches are most visible characteristic of Pacific ring of fire. They are formed due to the subduction process.

  • During this process, the denser plate is pushed under the lighter plate and deep into the mantle, causing the seafloor and outermost crust to bend and form a steep, V-shaped depression.

 

Future

Studies have shown that the ‘ring of fire could form a supercontinent from the existing landmass and the Pacific Ocean may be enclosed within next 250 million years.