The ring of fire is a massive horseshoe-shaped ring encircling the Pacific basin made up of a string of volcanoes and seismic activity.
About 90 percent of all earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire, which is dotted with 75 percent of all the active volcanoes on earth.
A string of 452 volcanoes stretches from the southern tip of South America, up the coast of the Americas, across the Bering Strait, down through Japan and into New Zealand.
In total, the ring forms a 25,000 mile arc from the boundary of the Pacific Plate, to the Cocos and Nazca Plates that line the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
What created the Ring of Fire?
The ring is the result of tectonic plates – huge slabs of the earth’s crust which fit together like a puzzle to make up the earth’s surface.
The plates are not fixed, but constantly moving on top of a layer of solid and molten (liquid) rock, called the earth’s mantle.
Sometimes, these plates collide, move apart, or slide against each other, which results in an earthquake.
The volcanoes form when one plate is pushed under another into the mantle (through a process known as subduction), releasing pressure and causing the molten rock to push up through the earth.
The Ring of Fire is a result of the earth’s oceanic plates and continental plates interacting, which has led to the massive activity which is associated with the area.
Where did the earthquakes strike in the past 24 hours?
Over the past 24 hours, 30 earthquakes have been recorded along the Ring of Fire, as you can see in the map below.
The locations and maximum recorded magnitude by the USGS are as follows:
- Fiji: Four quakes, magnitude-5.7 maximum
- New Caledonia: Five quakes, magnitude-7.1 maximum
- Indonesia: Five quakes, magnitude-5.5 maximum
- Guam: Two quakes, magnitude-6.4 maximum
- Japan: One quake, magnitude-3.8 maximum
- Alaska: Four quakes, magnitude-3.6 maximum
- California: Four quakes, magnitude-4.4 maximum
- Mexico: One quake, magnitude-4.3 maximum
- Bolivia: One quake, magnitude-5.0 maximum
- Chile: Two quakes, magnitude-4.5 maximum
- Argentina: One quake, magnitude-4.3 maximum
Of course, by far the most powerful on that list occurred in New Caledonia.
The massive quake struck the French territory in the South Pacific at a depth of 26km, according to the USGS.
Small tsunami waves were observed, but the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says it does not expect a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami and added that there is no threat to Hawaii.
However, tsunami waves as tall as a metre above the tide level were possible along the coasts of Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu.
No damage or injuries have been reported.
What is the ‘Big One’?
Around times of increased seismic activity, talk of the ‘Big One’ often increases.
The Big One is a hypothetical earthquake of a magnitude 8.0 or greater.
The Big One, according to the hypothesis, will occur along the San Andreas Fault, a 750-mile-long tectonic boundary through California.
A study published in 2006 in the journal Nature found the San Andreas fault has reached a sufficient stress level for an earthquake of magnitude greater than 7.0 to occur.
The paper concluded: “The information available suggests that the fault is ready for the next big earthquake but exactly when the triggering will happen and when the earthquake will occur we cannot tell.
“It could be tomorrow or it could be 10 years or more from now.”