Plate Tectonics: A whole new way of looking at your planet
by Keyword

The Book  
Table of Contents
In the Beginning
The Tectonic Plates
Mount St. Helen
How Plates Move
Plate Boundaries
A Changing Earth
Pangaea - All Lands
Mid-Ocean Ridges
An Ocean is Born
The Birth of an Island
Mountain Ranges
Subduction Zones
Island Arcs
The Ring of Fire
Hot Spots
Mantle Plumes
Origin of Life Theories
Global Climate
Other Worlds
Welcome to Your World

The Ring of Fire

In the not too distant past, cartographers charted the deep ocean trenches, seismologists plotted earthquakes beneath the trenches, and volcanologists studied the overlying volcanoes. But these researchers worked independently of each other, and were unaware that the phenomena they studied were all part of a singular process. Today, the ideas of sea-floor spreading and subduction explain clearly why so many of the world’s volcanoes are situated on the Pacific island arcs, the Ring of Fire, where earth’s tectonic plates are being subducted beneath deep ocean trenches.

After about 10 million years, the final stage of subduction begins. At depths of as much as 450 miles, the plate becomes so hot that it softens and stops generating earthquakes. But the descent and melting continue until, at some unknown depth, the plate blends with the surrounding mantle material. Eventually this material will emerge along Mid-Ocean Ridges as new sea-floor crust or escape as volcanic lava as the process of subduction comes full circle and our tectonic planet continues to evolve.
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