Notorious Ring of Fire Keeps Earning Its Name

Allison Loudermilk

The thick, darker line denotes most of the ring of fire. If you really want to peer closely at it, the U.S. Geological Survey can give you a bigger map. (Image courtesy U.S. Geological Survey)

An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 rocked Sumatra last night, killing hundreds of people. As the Indonesians turned to the grim task of cleaning up -- wham -- another earthquake registering 6.6 struck.

Earlier in the week, we heard about how a tsunami ravaged American Samoa, leaving residents scrambling for high ground with very little warning. The tsunami was speeding across the ocean at 430 miles per hour, according to a Times Online story, too fast for official warnings to reach them. At least Samoan residents had been told to head for higher ground pronto if they ever felt a tremor that continued for more than 30 seconds; otherwise, the loss of life might have been even greater.

Both incidents reminded me never, ever to live in the "Ring of Fire," the infamous horseshoe-shaped region that takes credit for about 90 percent of the world's earthquakes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. (And just for the record, Johnny Cash supposedly was thinking about love, not natural disasters, when he sang his trademark song.)

Nowhere else on Earth generates this kind of seismic action. The Alpide belt in the Mediterranean comes in second, claiming 5 to 6 percent of global earthquakes.

And this graphic, reminds me never, ever to live in Hawaii. Look at the way that honeymooner's paradise just sits in the Pacific Ocean, a sitting duck for any tsunami or anything else that comes roaring out of the surrounding Ring of Fire. (Both of these maps can be seen a whole lot bigger here and here.)

Look at poor Hawaii. It's in the crosshairs for any tsunami generated by the ring of fire. You can see a bigger map at the U.S. Geological Survey. (Image courtesy

Then again, the rowdy Ring of Fire region might suit people just fine, especially compared to, say, Atlanta, which just experienced 500-year flooding and record drought, but fewer related deaths.

No matter where you live, Mother Nature will find you. It reminds me of a great article Brendan Koerner wrote for Slate about where you should live in the United States if you don't want to die in a natural disaster. I'm not going to ruin his article and tell you here, but I will tell you that it definitely isn't Hawaii or American Samoa.

More on Mother Nature's awe-inspiring powers at HowStuffWorks.com:

How Volcanoes Work Was there really a great flood? How Earthquakes Work How Tsunamis Work