Jan 14, 2020

It’s during times of mass hysteria and panic that people are most vulnerable to misinformation. All it takes is for a page administrator to type in the words “according to an expert” or “based on scientific evidence” together with an unverified fact and photo. Other times, they don’t even add these and yet people believe them. Just look at the recent deluge of misleading headlines on social media related to the Taal Volcano eruption.

An eruption plume caused by Taal Volcano’s activity on Sunday, Jan. 12. Photo courtesy of Tagaytay City Cavite Disaster Risk Reduction

The claims: Is the Ring of Fire active? Will Mayon erupt?

Local news agency Rappler PH is on the watch for such things with their fact-checking initiative and so far the things they have caught are straight-up hoaxes and could have been easily double-checked through a simple internet search. Taal on alert level 5? All you have to do is tune in to the news or get updates from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) to see that this is an over-exaggeration.

Then again, this is what exactly makes us prone to believing them apart from the current panic-inducing conditions. Despite the proliferation of smartphones and wireless connectivity, only a handful have access to it and the knowledge to verify information that is available to them. As for those who can easily access the internet but choose to believe falsities, well, that’s on you.

…there are at least 20 volcanoes actively erupting on Earth at any given moment, or 1.3 percent of the total 1,500 volcanoes around the world. In fact, you can see an updated list of volcanoes currently erupting (over 40 as of this writing) through this link.

But here’s a mildly confusing tidbit of false information that has been spreading online: that the explosions currently happening around the world—Mt. Shintake in Japan, Popocatepetl in Mexico, and Taal Volcano in the Philippines—are somehow connected and it means that the Pacific Ring of Fire is “active.”

The facts

First, (it’s ring and not “rim”) let’s define the “Ring of Fire.” According to the National Geographic, the Ring of Fire also called the Circum-Pacific Belt, is a path along the Pacific Ocean approximately 40,000 kilometers that trace tectonic plates like the Pacific, Juan de Fuca, Cocos, Indian-Australian, Nazca, North American, and Philippine Plates.

Seventy-five percent of Earth’s volcanoes or more than 450 volcanoes are situated in it. And with this statistic withstanding, there are at least 20 volcanoes actively erupting on Earth at any given moment, or 1.3 percent of the total 1,500 volcanoes around the world. In fact, you can see an updated list of volcanoes currently erupting (over 40 as of this writing) through this link.

And that’s not strange at all nor are they connected. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), volcanoes have independent magma reservoirs. Even if two volcanoes are geographically close to each other, there is no solid evidence yet that one of them erupting can trigger near-simultaneous eruptions.

Photo courtesy of Mark Alvin Esplana/Inquirer Southern Luzon

Also, Mayon being on alert level 2 following Taal’s eruption? Partly false. Bicol’s perfect cone has been on alert level 2 since March last year.

So no, the Ring of Fire is not suddenly activated. The Earth is geologically active at any given time because there is thermal energy gradually escaping from its depths to the surface, thus the formation of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, which gives us plate tectonics that shape and reshape the face of the earth.

Over 40 volcanoes erupting at the same time in the new millennium is nothing more than coincidence and that’s a fact.

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Read more:

Evolved from Taal’s 1754 explosion, tawilis among lake fishes at risk as volcanic activity continues

Alert level 4 raised as Taal Volcano makes “phreatic eruption.” What does this mean?

Here’s where to send donations and volunteer to help in the #TaalEruption2020 relief operations

TAGS: Fake news mayon volcano ring of fire taal eruption taal volcano volcanic eruptions