Pagan Island is the subaerial portion of two adjoining Quaternary stratovolcanoes near the middle of the active Mariana Arc, [FAT1]north of Saipan. Pagan and the other volcanic islands that constitute part of the Arc form the northern half of the East Mariana Ridge[FAT2], which extends about 2-4 km above the ocean floor. The > 6-km-deep Mariana Trench adjoins the East Mariana Ridge on the east, and the Mariana Trough, partly filled with young lava flows and volcaniclastic sediment, lies on the west of the Northern Mariana Islands (East Mariana Ridge. The submarine West Mariana Ridge, Tertiary in age, bounds the western side of the Mariana Trough. The Mariana Trench and Northern Mariana Islands (East Mariana Ridge) overlie an active subduction zone where the Pacific Plate, moving northwest at about 10.3 cm/year, is passing beneath the Philippine Plate, moving west-northwest at 6.8 cm/year. Beneath the Northern Mariana Islands, earthquake hypocenters at depths of 50-250 km identify the location of the west-dipping subduction zone, which farther west becomes nearly vertical and extends to 700 km depth. During the past century, more than 40 earthquakes of magnitude 6.5-8.1 have shaken the Mariana Trench.
The Mariana Islands form two sub-parallel, concentric, concave-west arcs. The southern islands comprise the outer arc and extend north from Guam to Farallon de Medinilla. They consist of Eocene to Miocene volcanic rocks and uplifted Tertiary and Quaternary limestone. The nine northern islands extend from Anatahan to Farallon de Pajaros and form part of the inner arc. The active inner arc extends south from Anatahan, where volcanoes, some of which are active, form seamounts west of the older outer arc. Other volcanic seamounts of the active arc surmount the East Mariana Ridge in the vicinity of Anatahan and Sarigan and north and south of Farallon de Pajaros. Six volcanoes (Farallon de Pajaros, Asuncion, Agrigan, Mount Pagan, Guguan, and Anatahan) in the northern islands have erupted during the past century, and Ruby Seamount erupted in 1996.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Preliminary Geologic Map of Mount Pagan Volcano, Pagan Island, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands