About 75% of the Earth's volcanoes are located on the Pacific Ocean's “Ring of Fire.”
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About 75% of the Earth's volcanoes are located on the Pacific Ocean's “Ring of Fire.”

About 1,350 potentially active volcanoes dot the Earth today, and the lion’s share of them can be found along a 25,000-mile-long horseshoe-shaped ribbon that borders the Pacific Ocean. This Circum-Pacific Belt, more commonly known as the “Ring of Fire,” is home to some of the most volcanically active areas in the world, including Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile, Alaska, and parts of the contiguous United States. These volcanoes are largely formed at subduction zones, when denser tectonic plates slip underneath lighter plates. This subduction turns the Earth’s dense mantle into magma, which eventually bubbles up as volcanoes.

Hawaii is the most active area along the “Ring of Fire.”
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Incorrect.
It's a Fib
The 50th U.S. state isn’t a part of the “Ring of Fire” at all. Hawaii is actually in the middle of the Pacific Plate, far from the volcano-making subduction zones. Its six islands were formed as the plate was dragged over a huge plume of magma that rose up to pierce the Earth’s crust.

The “Ring of Fire” is home to about 90% of all earthquakes, and in the past 150 years, deadly volcanic explosions — from Indonesia’s Krakatoa in 1883 to Mount St. Helens nearly a century later — have happened along this dangerous stretch. But although the “Ring of Fire” is known for its destructive nature, it’s also a force of creation. Alaska’s Aleutian Islands are the result of Ring of Fire subduction zones, and many continental mountain ranges, such as the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest and the Andes in South America, also owe their existence to the subterranean drama unfurling just beneath the surface.

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Numbers Don’t Lie
Year Johnny Cash released the song “Ring of Fire” (about falling in love, not volcanoes)
1963
Top approximate speed of an eruption’s pyroclastic flow (a cloud of hot gas and volcanic matter)
435 mph
Year “Dante’s Peak,” in which Pierce Brosnan plays a volcanologist, was released
1997
Height (in feet) of Mars’ Olympus Mons, the tallest known volcano in the solar system
72,000
The tallest active volcano in the world is _______, located on the island of Hawaii.
The tallest active volcano in the world is Mauna Loa, located on the island of Hawaii.
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Think Twice
Volcanoes caused the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history.

Around 252 million years ago, life was going great — until it wasn’t. The Permian Extinction, known even more ominously as “The Great Dying,” is the largest extinction event in Earth’s history. It was even more devastating than the asteroid-induced extinction that ended the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. In fact, the Permian Extinction wiped out 95% of all marine and 70% of all terrestrial species. What could be more deadly than a six-mile-wide asteroid? Siberian volcanoes. Known as the Siberian Traps in modern-day Russia, these volcanoes spewed ash and gasses for hundreds of thousands of years at a rate that hasn’t been seen since. This toxic mixture slowly warmed the planet, raised ocean acidity, and possibly damaged the Earth’s protective ozone layer, allowing deadly UV-B radiation to ravage plant life. The Permian Extinction definitively closed one major chapter in Earth history, but it also cleaned the slate for another to begin. After all, the next geologic period — the Triassic — saw the rise of the first dinosaurs. 

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