Sources: Ring of Fire: An Encyclopedia of the Pacific Rim’s Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes

Ring of Fire: An Encyclopedia of the Pacific Rim’s Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes. By Bethany D. Rinard Hinga. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2015. 403 p. Acid free $89 (ISBN: 978-1-61069-296-0). E-book available (978-1-61069-297-7), call for pricing.

This work seems to be unique, or close to it, in its scope. The author discusses geological phenomena in the Pacific region from “historical, geographical, and geological perspectives” (xv) with an emphasis on earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes. Topics range from as overarching as plate tectonics to narrower but still broadly applicable topics such as definitions of hazard versus risk to specific sites and events. She uses “important stories” (xv) and myths to add interest. Because of all of the processes, events, and consequences it drives, the author notes that “the strongest theme presented herein is plate tectonics” (xvii).

Each of the approximately one hundred entries includes cross references and a list of further reading. The indexing is a little disappointing. As an example, the Fukushima Daiichi plant disaster, which was located in the Fukushima Prefecture in Japan is discussed reasonably thoroughly and is included in a timeline in the front matter. It is neither cross referenced from the Fukushima name nor indexed under that name. It is under the Sendai earthquake and tsunami.

The interdisciplinary approach taken by Hinga may have contributed to less scientific detail than some works. The Encyclopedia of Geology by Richard C. Selley, L. R. M. Cocks, and I. R. Plimer (Elsevier Academic, 2005), for example, generally presents a more scholarly style. The section on plate tectonics in Selley is about twice as long as the one in Ring of Fire, focuses more on processes and technical details using precise scientific terminology, and is written in a more conservative style. An example is referring to plate tectonics as a “theory” based on “assumption[s]” where Hinga describes the plates and their behavior as “known.” Hinga’s narrative focuses largely on the history of the development of the theory and the individuals involved, with the process itself and the evidence supporting it playing a secondary role. The Encyclopedia of Geology, a five-volume set with global scope, is no longer available from the publisher in print, and is substantially more expensive.

Peter Bobrowsky’s Encyclopedia of Natural Hazards (Springer, 2013) is a substantially larger, more expensive work than Ring of Fire. It is broader in geographical and topical scope, including such hazards as comets and fires and related topics such as disaster management and prevention, and the human contribution to natural hazards. This focus influences the arrangement, so coverage of Mount Saint Helens, for example, is scattered in at least eight different sections. Bobrowsky chose to forgo the individual stories incorporated by Hinga in favor of a more statistical and analytical approach.

James P. Terry and James Rodney Goff’s Natural Hazards in the Asia-Pacific Region: Recent Advances and Emerging Concepts (The Geological Society, 2012) has a similar geographic and topical scope to Hinga’s work. It is, as intended, a collection of papers, thus written in a manner less accessible to some undergraduates, lacking more basic information, and not in encyclopedia format.

The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes by Alexander E. Gates and David Ritchie (Facts on File, 2007) is another title that may serve well for lower level undergraduates. The entries are much shorter and more numerous, so the reliance on cross referencing is reduced. It has more illustrations than Hinga’s work and they are well used to engage the reader and inform the topic. However, it lacks the in-depth regional focus and the readability of Ring of Fire.

Overall, the affordability, approachability, engaging style, and excellent follow up resources will make this a valuable resource for lower level undergraduates. Upper level undergraduates and other more serious researchers in earth sciences may find it wanting in technical details and specifics.—Lisa Euster, Reference Librarian, Ellensburg, Washington


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