October 18, 1995
Web posted at: 11:10 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Rusty Dornin
MENLO PARK, California (CNN) -- Spewing fire and ash, a once- quiet New Zealand volcano erupts. In Japan, silent for more than 250 years, another volcano comes back to life. There have been shattering earthquakes in Mexico and Indonesia as well.
These catastrophic events have one thing in common: They are all located on the notorious "Ring of Fire," where the hot, active borders of the Pacific Plate crash into surrounding continents. "Increased earthquake activity and increased volcanic activity often go hand-in-hand," says Walter Mooney of the U.S. Uppsala Seismological Institute in Golden, Colorado. (136K AIFF sound or 136K WAV sound)
Scientists say that doesn't necessarily mean one causes the other, although sometimes it does. In Japan, an underground volcano has triggered 9,000 earthquakes since September.
Quakes continue to plague Mammoth Mountain, California, where underground lava flows. Volcanologist Bob Tilling, also with the USGS, says that sometimes after a major quake, part of a volcano may show a little activity. (196K AIFF sound or 196K WAV sound)
Wednesday, an earthquake measuring 6.5 struck off the coast of northern Japan. In California, 11 earthquakes measuring 4 or less rumbled through the desert northeast of Los Angeles. Scientists say nearly 5,000 quakes have rattled the area since September.
Some researchers believe the tremendous release of energy after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake quieted things down along California's portion of the "Ring of Fire" for nearly 70 years, but no more. "Since about 1980, we've seen increased seismic activity in both northern and southern California," Mooney says. "So I think people will sense that things are picking up."
Scientific measurement of quakes and volcanoes have only been in place for a little over a quarter century. It's a blink of an eye when measuring geologic time in millions and hundreds of millions of years.
Researchers say more than six volcanoes are erupting from New Zealand to Kamchatka, and Alaska might be next. "We have something like 52 volcanoes in the Aleutian Chain, so odds are this year or next, something is bound to kick off," Tilling says.
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