Home Editor's Picks Is a Ring of Fire Mega Quake on the Cards?

Is a Ring of Fire Mega Quake on the Cards?


By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, In Homeland Security

A top U.S. scientist has warned that major earthquakes around the world over the past week could be foreshadowing a so-called Ring of Fire mega quake.

The Ring of Fire is a region known to seismologists that traverses four continents and is responsible for some of history’s most powerful earthquakes. It’s a 25,000 mile long oval-shaped series of troughs spanning the Pacific Ocean where tectonic plates have shifted numerous times over the centuries – causing seismic and volcanic disruptions. Approximately 90% of the world’s earthquakes – and 81% of our most powerful quakes – occur along the Ring of Fire. And, sitting in prominence on the Ring of Fire is the Western coastline of the United States, including every major coastal metropolitan area from Seattle to San Diego.

Ring of Fire Earthquakes This Year

The Ring of Fire produced three major earthquakes over the past week. On April 14 and 16, two earthquakes struck Japan, killing dozens of people and causing widespread property and infrastructure damage. The first quake registered 6.2 on the Richter scale; the second registered 7.0.

On the opposite side of the Ring of Fire, Ecuador was struck by a 7.8 quake on April 16 and the death toll is likely to rise to several hundred.

Last week there were also substantial quakes in Tonga, Vanuatu, Myanmar and the Philippines – and all of them struck nations adjacent to the Ring of Fire.

[Also by Glynn Cosker: Zika Virus Map Shows a United States Outbreak is Up Next]

AMU adSo, is a Ring of Fire mega quake on the cards in the near future? University of Colorado seismologist Roger Bilham told the UK’s Daily Express: “The current conditions might trigger at least four earthquakes greater than 8.0 in magnitude … the strain accumulated during the centuries provokes more catastrophic mega earthquakes.”

Los Angeles Mega Quake

Major earthquakes have struck three of the four continents the Ring of Fire traverses this month: South America, Asia, and Oceania. That might lead one to assume that North America is up next.

The U.S. Geological Survey has reported that a Ring of Fire mega quake would be a rare occurrence, but it’s not impossible and could happen anywhere at any time, including in the United States. The organization believes that the shifting tectonic plates in the region could one day produce a mind-boggling 10.0 magnitude mega quake.

That kind of quake, if it happened near a populated area, would measure up as one of the most devastating natural disasters in human history – worse than the Dec. 26, 2004 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 250,000 people.

Los Angeles sits precariously close to the Ring of Fire zone. An earthquake of even 7.5 on the Richter scale in or near Los Angeles would cause catastrophic damage and loss of life, let alone a mega quake closer to 10.0 in magnitude. The last major quake to strike the Los Angeles metropolitan area occurred on January 17, 1994. That quake, measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, killed more than 60 people.

Los Angeles mega quake
This is damage caused by a 6.7 magnitude quake in Los Angeles in Jan. 1994.

For reference, two of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded struck along the Ring of Fire. A 1964 earthquake in Alaska that measured 9.2 on the Richter scale, and one off the coast of Chile in 1960 with a 9.5 magnitude.

Any more earthquakes along the Ring of Fire in the coming weeks would be ominous.