The Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt 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 mountain peaks.
Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt
The Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt (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 1,000 km (600+ mi) long active volcanic arc encompasses an area of approximately 160,000 sq km (62,000 sq mi). The volcanic belt overlies the Rivera (microplate) and Cocos tectonic plate 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.
The larger Cocos Plate is bordered by the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate to the northeast, the Pacific Plate to the west and to the south by the Nazca Plate.
Prior to the formation of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, 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 and are home to a host of endemic species.
From the west to the east, the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt runs through the following states:
- northern Michoacán
- southern Querétaro
- southern Hidalgo
- Distrito Federal
- northern Morelos
- central Veracruz
The Mexican Plateau lies to the 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.
Notable Active or Dormant Volcanic Mountain Peaks
- Pico de Orizaba (5,636 m (18,491 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)