Disaster in Paradise

Learn about places at risk for earthquakes and volcanoes


Sometimes beauty covers up what is really underneath. Moving tectonic plates lay under the scenery of the Alaskan Peninsula, Japan, Sumatra, and California. These are highly active areas that could potentially be dangerous. So why would people want to live there? What is positioned under the crust? What evidence is there that it is dangerous? This article will answer all these questions.

The Alaskan Peninsula

Living the Alaskan Life

The reasons to live in Alaska could go on forever, but these are the main things residents love about Alaska. Everyone hates rude neighbors, but in Alaska most people are friendly and courteous, so surly neighbors shouldn't be a problem. There is also no shortage of exciting things to do. Camping, hiking, kayaking, and fishing in the beauty of Alaska are popular outdoor activities. The residents engulf themselves in the stunning mountains covered in sparkling white snow in the winter as well as the vibrant flowers in the spring. The abundance of captivating wild life is also an enticement to the area. In Alaska there is no state income tax and in many places there is also no sales tax. Alaskans receive a permanent fund dividend, which is a part of a profit made from a fund established with money from oil taxes.

Tectonic Activity

Southern Alaska sits on the boundary of the North American and Pacific plates. This is a convergent boundary. A convergent boundary is caused when a dense oceanic plate is forced under a less dense continental plate. The result of this is the Aleutian trench. Just north of the trench lays the volcanic Aleutian Islands, which are also the outcome of the convergent boundary.

Cause of Disaster

So are people in danger if they live in Alaska? They could be, but probably not enough to put their life a risk. Alaska is the biggest state but ranks 47th in population, so even though earthquakes occur weekly there have been minimal deaths due to tectonic activity. There is an average of 1,000 quakes per month, however only about 27 of these have a magnitude above a 4 on the Richter scale. If these quakes occur in a populated area they can cause severe damage. The Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 cost 400 million dollars in damage. Alaska does also sit on a convergent boundary, the most deadly type, so it makes it just that much more threatening.

The Californian Coast

The Golden State

When thinking about California, what comes to mind? The beach? Soaking up the sun all day? That's not the only thing about California! World Class cities are some of the nicest cities in the world. They are define by having good colleges so that there can be well-educated people. Also, rich people, water close by (oceans), and even public restrooms are classified to a World Class city. Weird, huh? Los Angeles and San Francisco happen to both be World Class cities! Lots of people must like these cities because 1/10 of America's population live in California! Next, California is located on the West Coast of North America, 37 degrees N and 120 degrees W. California has many beautiful places to tour. It has 9 national parks including the indescribable, beautiful Death Valley and tranquil Yosemite. Also, wouldn't it be awesome to live in the state where millions of movies are filmed? Hollywood's first film was recorded in 1910. It was a 17- minute film! California is also filled with lots of enjoyable activities. Anywhere from Disney Land, to the San Diego Zoo, to the Golden Gate Bridge. It is full of attractions for young and old!

Tectonic Activity

California has lots of tectonic activity. The North American plate and the Pacific plate cover almost the whole state of California. These two plates have actually created a fault that spreads across 800 miles! It is called the San Andres Fault. This fault is a transform fault, meaning it was caused by a transform boundary. These two plates created a mid-ocean ridge called the East Pacific Rise. It was created by a divergent plate boundary. Divergent boundaries aren't the most common type in California, though. Transform boundaries are the most common. This occurs when two tectonic plates slide past each other, and then quickly jerk apart. This causes dangerous earthquakes and it also allows magma to slip out the opening causing volcanoes.

Danger of California

Although California may seem perfect, there are some dangerous things in California. Volcanoes aren't very deathly in California. Death Valley and Lassen Peak are the two most active. Earthquakes on the other hand, have caused about 730,261 deaths. Volcanoes and especially earthquakes are a large hazard. A specific earthquake was the Earthquake of 1906. It occurred in San Francisco, killing 3,000 people and leaving 400,000 homeless. It caused $524 million worth of damage. People could feel in in Oregon and Washington! A historical volcano was the Lassen Peak from 1914-1917. Everyone was able to evacuate, but it went on for three years causing more than 150 explosions. Ash had spread 200 miles from the original location. Lassen Peak was a stratovolcano which is the deadliest type of volcanoes. So, although California looks like paradise, it has its unfavorable landmarks.

Sumatra, Indonisia

A Paradise Island

Sumatra, an island in the pacific ocean, is an island that is part of Indonesia. This is a paradise away from home. It has crystal clear water along its beach dotted shore line. People come and live here because it is a resort area, and many natives have lived their whole lives on this island, so why would they move. The beaches are always active with visitors and natives. Natives use the beaches for religious ceremonies. Inland lie many rainforests dotting the countryside. North lie the mangrove forests that are home to many fish. Sumatra is a great place to visit.

Tectonic Activity

But, Sumatra isn’t all paradise. Sumatra lies along the Pacific and Indian plates. The pacific plate is known as the ring of fire. Some of the most deadly tectonic activity happens along this plate. Since it is the ring of fire, the slight movements between the plates are causing eruptions and earthquakes. But not all of Sumatra is dangerous. You can find all of the tectonic activity on the west coast. The whole west coast is covered with volcanoes. The volcanoes and tectonic activity make islands right off the coast, and mountains that can be seen from miles around. Because of the constant tectonic activity, this can make deadly earthquakes and eruptions from volcanoes.

A Paradise Disaster Area

Sumatra can be very dangerous because of its constant volcanic eruptions. The island has monthly earthquakes and volcanoes. 3000 or more people die in just some of the volcanic eruptions. The Marapi, Sinabung, Talang, and Kerinci are just some of the active volcanoes that erupt constantly. Sinabung most recent eruption has caused lots of damage to the crop industry in Sumatra. The US had to pay over 1 million dollars just for the chili pepper industry. They also had to pay the same for lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage potatoes, and oranges with the same cost, and that was just for the crops. There are still other volcanoes that still are a danger . There are so many volcanoes, that the whole coastline has volcanoes able to see everywhere. Sumatra can be a paradise at some times, and a disaster area other times.


The Japanese Lifestyle

Any place in Japan people love to live. Where there are beautiful scenic views. Japan is an island located in the Pacific Ocean or 35.0000 degrees North and 136.0000 degrees East. Japan is a very protective country with about 244,000 people as of 2013. This country has a ton of entertainment like karaoke. No matter what you love doing, there isn’t much you can’t do in Japan.

Tectonic Plate Activity

On record, the latest earthquake that took place in Japan, the Japan Trench is where the Pacific Plate slides beneath the Pacific Ocean which dives beneath Japan. This violent movement between the plates forced the North American Plate upward in which the last quake took place. Not only do colliding plates trigger earthquakes, they also trigger volcanoes. Estimately, about 10 percent of the world’s active volcanoes are located in Japan due to the Pacific Plate dashing below the Philippine Plate.


Japan may be a beautiful city, although with a multiple number of volcanoes that erupt and the violent earthquakes that rip apart the country, this place could be very dangerous. There are some earthquakes that kill over 30,000 people at one time. People are very brave for living here because Japan could be very life threatening and dangerous. These people still love living there because it’s the way they love living.


This article has taught that things are not always as they seem. Even someplace with endless attractions has it’s downfalls. Whether it’s earthquakes or volcanoes, these four places are not all that meets the eye. Every second, somewhere in the world, lightning strikes, but that doesn’t stop us from playing in the rain. Therefore earthquakes and volcanoes don’t stop people from living where they strike.

Sources- Alphabetical