Glencoe Earth Science

Unit 3: Earth's Internal Processes

WebQuest Projects



Nearly a million people lived in and around Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines before it erupted on June 15, 1991. At the time, few people even believed that this mountain was, in fact, a volcano; after all, it had been dormant for nearly 500 years. Fortunately, the volcano sent some signals before its eruption that allowed most people in the area to evacuate in time. As a result, approximately 350 people died in the eruption and in the mudflows that followed. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo was one of the most severe eruptions ever recorded; it spewed out between 3.7 and 5.3 km3 of magma. In contrast, the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State produced just a tenth of this volume.

The Philippine people are still struggling to recover from the devastating environmental and economic losses that resulted from Mount Pinatubo’s eruption. Meanwhile, there are signs that another Philippine volcano, Mount Mayon, is beginning to wake up. In Japan, Mount Fuji also has begun to emit smoke and noxious gases. What is going on in this part of the world? Why are there so many active volcanoes in places like the Philippines and Japan? What other volcanoes are showing signs of activity? How are these volcanoes related to those in the Philippines and Japan?



Your job in this WebQuest is to explore the active volcanoes of the world and discover how these volcanoes are related. In order to do this, you first will have to learn a little about plate tectonics, and about what happens when plates collide on Earth’s surface. You will learn about three different types of plate boundaries, and what kinds of volcanic activities are associated with each type. You will describe the plate boundaries located along the edges of the Pacific Ocean and identify an area known as the ring of fire. Then you will list information in a table on at least five active volcanoes from the ring of fire. Finally, you will draw a simple map of the ring of fire area and identify each of the volcanoes in your table on the map.



Look at the web sites given here to find the information that will enable you to complete your table and map on active volcanoes located in the ring of fire.

  • Plate Tectonics. Go to this National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) site to learn more about plate tectonics. You can view animations here of the formation of a mid-ocean ridge, a subduction zone, and a fault. Scroll down and click on the book to open the site, then click on whatever subject you are interested in. If you click on plate boundaries, you can learn more about the three types of lithospheric plates.
  • Understanding Plate Motions. Visit this U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) site to learn about the different type of plate boundaries. Scroll down to oceanic-continental convergence, then click on ring of fire to see a larger graphic of the Pacific Ocean and its convergent plate boundaries.
  • Savage Earth: The Earth at Work. Go to this Public Broadcasting System (PBS) online site to find out more about how plates move around on Earth’s surface. Scroll down to see a map of Earth with the major tectonic plates outlined in yellow. The map also shows the locations of earthquakes during the 20th century. Notice that the earthquakes are clustered at the plate edges. Click on ring of fire to learn about the most volcanically and seismically active region on Earth. You can find out what percentage of Earth’s active and dormant volcanoes lie along this area at the margin of the Pacific Ocean here.
  • Active Volcanoes, Plate Tectonics, and the "Ring of Fire." At this USGS site you can see a map of the world, showing the different tectonic plates and the active volcanoes found around their edges. Notice the concentration of volcanoes along the western edge of the Pacific Plates, part of the ring of fire.
  • Exploring the Environment: Volcanoes. Visit this NASA Classroom of the Future site to learn more about volcanoes, and why they are located where they are. To move to the next page, scroll down and click on page 2. Read through all of the pages available to find out how the Hawaiian Islands formed.
  • Global Volcanism Program: Volcanoes of the World. Go to this site by the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, to see the Volcano Basic Data files that include geographic and geologic information on all Holocene volcanoes (those with known activity during the last 10,000 years). You can search by the name of a particular volcano, or by region of the world in which it is located to obtain data about individual volcanoes.
  • Earth’s Active Volcanoes. At this Michigan Technological University site you can find a map showing the locations of active volcanoes around the world. Scroll down and choose a region to study, then click on it. Click on any volcano to see photographs of the volcano, or to learn about recent volcanic activity.
  • Volcano Watch. At this site by the Space Science and Engineering Center of the University of Wisconsin – Madison, you can learn about the world’s most active volcanoes. The site lists about ten volcanoes and includes images of each volcano. This site is updated every 30 minutes. Scroll down to any of the volcanoes listed and click on the volcano’s name to view recent activity there.
  • The Electronic Volcano. Go to this Dartmouth College site to learn more about active volcanoes. The site has links to sites with catalogs of active volcanoes, data sets, and videos of active volcanoes. Scroll down to volcano name to search for information about a particular volcano.



1 class period for research and completion of the table and map



Now that you have completed your research on active volcanoes found along the ring of fire, prepare a table that lists at least five active volcanoes found there. In the left column, write in the names of the volcanoes that you have researched. At the top of the rows, write in the location, date of last volcanic activity, and any important facts about the volcano. Finally, draw a simple map of the ring of fire area and identify each of the volcanoes listed in the table on the map. The table is started for you below.

Table 1. Ring of Fire Volcanoes

Name of VolcanoLocationDate of Last ActivityImportant Facts
Mount Mayon Philippines May 16, 2001The dome vented gases; lava fragments are still being shed
Mt. Krakatau IndonesiaMay 27, 2001 Seismographs detected 7 deep and 54 shallow volcanic earthquakes

Once you have completed the table with information gathered from the Internet, you should be able to pinpoint the location of each volcano on a simple map you draw.



In the process of completing this WebQuest, you have become informed about the ring of fire and the volcanoes associated with it. You have become familiar with plate tectonics, and with the different types of plate boundaries. You have learned what type of plate boundary the ring of fire represents. You completed a table listing five active volcanoes, and included pertinent information in the table about the recent volcanic activity of each volcano. Finally, you drew a simple map and identified each volcano represented in the table on your map.



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