[Solved]Discuss the geophysical characteristics of Circum- Pacific Zone (UPSC 2020)

The Pacific Rim of Fire is the area where the Pacific Plate meets many surrounding tectonic plates and forms a horseshoe shape. It is composed of more than 450 volcanoes. Most active volcanoes on earth are underwater. Many of these volcanoes were formed through the process of subduction. It contains most of the subduction zones on the earth.

The Pacific Rim seismic zone is the largest seismic zone in the world, located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. More than 85% of earthquakes on the earth occur on this path. In addition, it has experienced the most violent and dramatic earthquake events.

The belt runs along the boundary of the tectonic plate. This is a typical zone where oceanic crustal plates sink or subduct under another plate. In the subduction zone where these plates overlap at the convergence boundary, the sliding between the plates and the rupture within the plates can cause earthquakes. This is the area with the most earthquakes and volcanoes in the world.

Circum-Pacific zone is the region encompassing the coast of Asia, Australia, and Americas. It stretches from Bering strait in Siberia to New Zealand and coast of Chile to Alaska.Circum-Pacific zone is also a source of study to determine orogenesis process such as continent formation, earthquake activities, volcanic activity etc.

Ring of Fire – Facts for UPSC
What is a ring of fire?The path located at the rim of the pacific ocean, which is characterized by active volcanoes and earthquakes is called the ring of fire. It is also called the Circum-Pacific Belt or Circum-Pacific Seismic Belt.
Why is it called the ring of fire?It is so-called because it marks a track around the rim of the pacific ocean. Also, since more than 75 percent of earth’s volcanoes and 90 percent of earthquakes are witnessed here, it is called the ring of fire.  Note: It is not a clear circular ring. A horseshoe-like shape is formed with the ring of fire. 
What is the length of the circum-pacific belt?The ring of fire is 40000 km long. 
What are the countries/Cities located in the ring of fire?Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Antarctica are some of the important places located in the ring of the fire. 
What are the features of the ring of fire?1. The ring of fire features the following: Oceanic trenches Volcanic arcs, and Volcanic belts and/or plate movements 2. It is home to around 452 volcanoes (active and dormant volcanoes both) 3. More than 80 percent of the world’s largest earthquakes occur along the circum-pacific belt. 4. It is the most seismically active region followed by Alpide Belt that extends from Java to the northern Atlantic Ocean via the Himalayas & Southern Europe

Geophysical characteristics of Circum-Pacific Zone

  • Archipelago clusters
    The Circum-Pacific zone consists of clusters of archipelago such as Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Polynesia, Chile etc.
  • Ring of fire
    Majority of global volcanoes are present along the perimeter of Circum-Pacific zone. This includes Mt Fiji, Mt Pinatubo, Mt Chimborazo, Mt Krakatau etc. Hence it is known as ring of fire.
  • Convergent zone
    The Circum-Pacific zone is a convergent zone between continental and oceanic plate. They are thus prone to regular earthquakes.
  • Edges of continental plates
    The Circum-Pacific zone consists of edges of continental plates such as Asian plate, Pacific plate, Nazca plate, Cocoa plate etc.
  • Trenches
    The edges of plates are destructive boundaries and as a result large trenches are found. They include Mariana trench, Guam trench etc.
  • Location: A nearly continuous chain of volcanoes surrounds the Pacific Ocean. The chain passes along the west coast of North and South America, from the Aleutian Islands to the south of Japan, from Indonesia to the Tonga Islands, and New Zealand.
  • Formation: This Circum-Pacific chain of volcanoes (often called the Ring of Fire) and the mountain ranges associated with it owe their formation to the repeated subduction of the oceanic lithosphere beneath the continents and the islands that surround the Pacific Ocean.The Ring of Fire is the result of plate tectonics (Convergent, Divergent Plate Boundary, Transform Plate Boundary).
  • Harbors Majority of Volcano & Earthquakes: Seventy-five percent of Earth’s volcanoes—more than 450 volcanoes—are located along the Ring of Fire.
  • List of Some Volcano Circum-Pacific Belt: Mount Fuji of Japan, The Aleutian Islands of US, Krakatau Island Volcano in Indonesia, etc.
  • Formation of Hot Spots: The Ring of Fire is also home to hot spots, areas deep within the Earth’s mantle from which heat rises.
  • This heat facilitates the melting of rock in the brittle, upper portion of the mantle. The melted rock, known as magma, often pushes through cracks in the crust to form volcanoes.

As the Pacific Rim of Fire harbors the majority of global Volcanic eruptions & Earthquakes, it holds immense significance regarding the study of the earth’s interior. The Circum-Pacific Belt, also referred to as The Ring of Fire, is a path along the Pacific Ocean characterized by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. Thus, the Circum-Pacific zone has some of the distinct features of the world that makes its study very important and critical

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