Earthquake Shaking and Damage
This is a student homework exercise designed to familiarize students with earthquake shaking, acceleration, intensity and hazards, including the quantitative measurement of these properties. Students examine quantitative measurements of earthquake hazard from the U.S.G.S. then use these numbers to determine the damage to their homes (or another location) that could be inflicted by a quake with a 500-year recurrence interval (10% probability of exceedence in 50 years). By using students' own homes, they see the impacts of shaking, hazard, and intensity in a more personal, connected way.
This exercise can be used by any one in the United States, but is most apt for those places with high earthquake hazard. It uses the USGS's hazard mapping program's web site that allows anyone to look up earthquake hazard based on zip code, and is available for the entire United States. It also uses a conversion of acceleration to Mercalli intensity from Bolt (1993) and available on-line. Finally, it uses information from the Association of Bay Area Governments (2003) to describe typical damage to buildings of differing types (including different housing styles and ages) from different shaking intensities.
- use the measurements of earthquake hazard, shaking, and intensity to evaluate potential damage from earthquakes;
- learn the specific, quantitative measurement of earthquake hazard for their residence location;
- relate ground accelerations to Mercalli intensities;
- relate Mercalli intensities to damage in structures of varying construction;
- synthesize the above information to analyze earthquake hazard for their home in written format with correct citations.
Context for Use
I use this assignment to reinforce and take home (literally) the relationships between acceleration, intensity, and hazard. They should have already seen these terms and measurements of these terms.
It takes about an hour, and requires internet access.
Teaching Notes and Tips
References and Resources
Teaching earthquakes quantitatively (soon to be made live) contains information and assistance for teaching earthquakes quantitatively, as well as other ideas for class activities.Web resources are used in this activity:
- USGS, 1996, Probabilistic Hazard Lookup by Zip Code or latitude and longitude.
- ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments), 2003, Impacts of California Earthquakes on Buildings from Shaken Awake
- Bolt, Bruce, 1993, Abridged Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale
Contact the Author
206-878-3710 x 3513
Controlled Vocabulary Terms
Resource Type: Activities:Problem Set, Activities, :Classroom Activity, Writing Assignment, Lab Activity
Inquiry Level: Guided Inquiry, Step-By-Step Instruction
Special Interest: Quantitative, 2YC:Geo2YC, Geo2YC- OLD DO NOT USE, Hazards
Grade Level: General Public, College Lower (13-14), Informal
Quantitative Skills: Units and Unit Conversions, Probability and Statistics, Arithmetic/Computation, Fractions and Ratios, Probability and Statistics:Probability
Ready for Use: Ready to Use, :Tested
Use: Illustrating concepts and ideas
Data Source: Observational Data
Earth System Topics: Solid Earth, Human Dimensions:Natural Hazards, Human Dimensions
Quantitative Skills Activity Type: Writing Assignment, Short Activity, Problem Set, Lab Activity, Classroom Activity
Science Background Required: Basic scientific background required, Broadly accessible
Topics: Solid Earth:Geophysics, Solid Earth, :Structural Geology:Geophysics and Structural Geology/Earthquakes/Seismic Reflection Profiling