Alaska, America’s Land Of Fire And Ice.

The country of Iceland is known as the Land of Fire And Ice. The reasons for this are related to its geographic and geological attributes. Iceland has alot of volcanoes for a country of its size. There are also several glaciers.

Hekla volcano in Iceland. Note the ash and lava rocks in front.

The United States of America has its own land of fire and ice. The state of Alaska is that land of fire and ice. And this is where geography comes into play. Alaska has the most volcanoes of any U.S. state. There are between 130-140 volcanoes in Alaska. And of those volcanoes. At least 40-50 volcanoes are active.

Mount Redoubt eruption, April 4, 2009

A lion’s share of Alaska’s volcanoes are concentrated in southern Alaska, especially from Cook Inlet to the Aleutian Islands. Why so many in southern/southwestern Alaska? This is is related to plate tectonics. Southern Alaska is located at the point where the North American and Pacific Plates meet. Alaska is located along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a seismically active area in the Pacific region. The Pacific Plate, moving northwest, is being subducted under the North American Plate, where the Aleutian subduction zone is located. The Aleutian arc, a chain of volcanoes on the Aleutian Islands, is a major part of the subduction zone. This volcanic arc is the product of such subduction. 35 active volcanoes are in this zone. Mount Cleveland, on Chudinadak Island, is among the most active of them. erupting at least 22 times since 1790.

Area where southern Alaska is located relative to the Ring of Fire.
Mount Cleveland eruption in 2006

In addition to the volcanoes in Alaska, there are many glaciers in Alaska. There are about 100,000 glaciers in Alaska. It is fitting that a region located so far north with so many high mountains would have glaciers. Alaska is home to Denali, the highest mountain in North America, 20,310 ft (6,190 m) above sea level. Most of the glaciers in Alaska are located in the mountains. There are some tidewater glaciers. Many of the tidewater glaciers are found along the coast of southern Alaska. Prince William Sound, east of the Kenai Peninsula (the Port of Valdez is located there), has an especially large amount of tidewater glaciers. Glaciers have their origins in the high mountains of Alaska. Those glaciers form because more snow falls than melts in Alaska, explicitly in the mountains, snow falling on older snow and compacting over time, and turns into ice. Because of the heavy weight of the ice, the glaciers move towards the coast under their weight.

Guyot Glacier
Image of Bear Glacier from space.

Alaska’s glaciers have been melting over the past 20 years, as a result of global warming. And this will reduce the amount of glaciers in Alaska.

Portage Glacier in 1958
Portage Glacier, 2013

Alaska really is America’s version of the Land of Fire And Ice. It has the largest concentration of volcanoes and glaciers in the USA. And it one of the many features of the state known as the Last Frontier.


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