The Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, also known as the Cordillera Neo-Volcánica and known locally as the Sierra Nevada, is located in south-central Mexico and extends east-west across the country from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. This volcanic arc contains many of the country's tallest peaks.
Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt
The Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, also known as the Cordillera Neo-Volcánica and known locally as the Sierra Nevada, is located in south-central Mexico and extends east-west across the country from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico for approximately 1,000 km (620 mi). The active volcanic arc encompasses an area of roughly 160,000 sq km (62,000 sq mi).
The volcanic belt is alternatively known by various names:
- Cordillera Neo-Volcánica (Neovolcanic Mountain Range)
- Eje Volcánico (Volcanic Axis)
- Sierra Volcánica Transversal (Transversal Volcanic System)
The volcanic belt overlies the Rivera (microplate) and Cocos tectonic plates and was formed over several million years as these plates subducted underneath the North American Plate on the northern edge of the Middle America Trench.
Before the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt was formed, an older but related volcanic belt, the Sierra Madre Occidental, occupied the area.
Ecologically, the mountains are part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt pine-oak forests ecoregion, a subtropical coniferous forest home to a host of endemic species.
From the west to the east, the volcanic belt runs through the following states: Colima, Jalisco, northern Michoacán, Guanajuato, southern Querétaro, México, southern Hidalgo, Distrito Federal, northern Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala, and central Veracruz.
The southern section of the Mexican Plateau (Mesa Central) lies north of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, bounded by the Sierra Madre Occidental to the west, the Sierra Madre Oriental to the east and the Sierra Madre del Sur in the south. The Sierra de Ajusco-Chichinauhtzin also forms part of the belt.
The hot, dry Balsas Depression, which takes its name from the major river draining the region, is immediately south of the volcanic belt. The depression is formed of small, irregular basins interrupted by hilly outcrops, which give the area a distinctive physical landscape.
Map depicting the location of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt in Mexico
Notable Active or Dormant Volcanic Mountain Peaks in the Volcanic Belt
Pico de Orizaba (5,675 m (18,620 ft)
Nevado de Colima (4,339 m (14,236 ft)
Parícutin (2,774 m (9,101 ft)
Nevado de Toluca (4,577 m (15,016 ft)
Popocatépetl (5,452 m (17,887 ft)
Iztaccíhuatl (5,286 m (17,343 ft)
Matlalcueitl (4,461 m (14,636 ft)
Cofre de Perote (4,282 m (14,049 ft)
Sierra Negra (4,580 m (15,030 ft)
Map depicting the major active volcanoes of Mexico. From west to east, volcanoes part of the volcanic belt are Nevado de Colima, Parícutin, Popocatépetl, and Pico de Orizaba.