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Patty Johnson, age 10, of Glasgow, w. Va., for her question:

How can the cold regions of Alaska have volcanoes?

Seething upsets in the earth seem out of place in the frozen north. But there are many fiery volcanoes on the arctic islands, and there are countless steamy hot springs in iceland. And a few years ago Alaska was shaken by a disastrous earthquake.

Earthquakes are related to volcanoes, hot springs and flowing rivers of molten lava. All these dramatic events are children of growing mountains. A huge range of massive mountains takes millions of years to grow to its full size. It grows up and up, lifting the rocky layers of the earth's crust high above sea level.

The range may rise inch by inch for centuries, but as it grows huge blocks of the earth's crust are pushed and shoved out of place. Deep below ground level there are stresses and strains and the buried layers become crushed and heated. The thick sandwich of rocky layers becomes unbalanced. Suddenly something must give way, and there is a shuddering upset    perhaps ant earthquake.

A mountains’ roots are deep in the ground. The earthquakes and volcanoes that come with growing mountains begin from upsets under the earth's crust. The deep trouble heaves upward and causes shuddering earthquakes and seething volcanoes on the surface. And the surface of the ground can do nothing to stop them.

Mountains may grow in torrid tropic or in frozen polar regions. They care nothing for the weather or the climate that makes the surface hot or cold. Everywhere, from the poles to the equator, the buried layers of the earth's crust are always very hot. Even the massive polar glaciers do nothing to chill these deep levels.

Soy earthquakes and volcanoes can and do happen in Alaska. Hot springs of steamy water plume up through the chilly ground of Iceland and volcanoes can and do erupt in the Aleutians. These upsets that seem out of place in the cold north are caused by a vast system of growing mountains.

One arm of these young mountains curves across the north pacific through the Aleutian Islands and Alaska. It snoops down the coast of California and southward by the Andes. The opposite arm curves by the coast of China and southern Asia. These chains of restless young mountains circle the pacific with earthquake zones and a fiery ring of active volcanoes. This circle spans the equator and reaches from the arctic to the Antarctic.

 

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