Pedagogy in Action > Library > Teaching with Google Earth > Examples of Google Earth Activities > The Boxing Day Tsunami

The Boxing Day Tsunami

Glenn A. Richard, Mineral Physics Institute, Stony Brook University

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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.



This page first made public: Dec 1, 2008

This material was originally created for On the Cutting Edge: Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Summary

Undergraduate students map data from the National Geophysical Data Center and the United States Geological Survey on Google Earth and study visualizations in order to explore the causes and effects of the Tsunami of December 26, 2004. The data includes tsunami runup heights, advance of tsunami wave fronts, and photography. In addition, the students examine evidence regarding the Tsunami of 1700.

Learning Goals

Context for Use

This exercise needs to be performed in a computer laboratory where students can work individually or in pairs. Google Earth and a web browser must be available on each workstation. The instructor should have enough prior knowledge of Google Earth to be able to troubleshoot common problems related to errors that students may make. The students should know how to use the Fly To tab in the Search pane, how to zoom in and out, and how to pan the view. They should know how to use the navigation controls and components of the toolbar. They will need to use the Ruler tool. The students must have access to accounts that enable them to visit off-campus web sites. The operating system should be configured to recognize kmz files, so that the browser offers to open them in Google Earth. Ideally, there should be an instructor station connected to a projector so that guidance can be provided to the class as a group. In addition to the primary instructor, a teaching assistant should be available to help students troubleshoot problems while the instructor is engaged at the instructor station.

The activity is best suited for a course that studies global concerns, and which gives students an understanding of interrelationships between components of the Earth system, including a perspective on the reasons why people have chosen to live in areas that happen to be seismically active, and along coastlines that may be subject to tsunami events. Prior to this activity, students should be provided with a basic understanding of plate tectonics and the causes and effects of seismic events.

This exercise was originally used in an undergraduate course at Stony Brook University - GEO 311: Geoscience and Global Concerns. Enrollment in the course was a mixture of geoscience and non-geoscience majors.

Fundamental Information about Using Google Earth

The User Guide is designed to provide information on using Google Earth to educators and students. In addition, the following links to Google's own documentation can offer guidance for specific skills needed for this exercise:

Google Earth User Guide: Introduction
Google Earth User Guide: Getting to Know Google Earth
Google Earth User Guide: Navigating in Google Earth
Google Earth User Guide: Finding Places and Directions
Google Earth User Guide: Using Layers
Google Earth User Guide: Measuring Distances and Areas
Google Earth User Guide: Viewing a Timeline

Description and Teaching Materials

The students need to be provided with the following handout which contains the instructions for this activity:

Student Handout for Boxing Day Tsunami Activity: (Word doc) (Microsoft Word 37kB Nov4 08) or (pdf) (Acrobat (PDF) 30kB Nov4 08)

Also hand out the one-page Google Earth Tip Sheet (.pdf)
Google Earth Tip Sheet (Acrobat (PDF) 440kB Nov20 08)

They will need the following data files:

Boxing Day Tsunami Google Earth KMZ Data File (KMZ File 673kB Oct22 08)

NGDC Boxing Day Tsunami Wave Travel Time Overlay (KMZ File 331kB Oct22 08)

The students will need to access the following external web sites:

USGS: Magnitude 9.1 - OFF THE WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA

Carleton College Science Education Resource Center: Tsunami Visualizations

Pacific Northwest Seismic Network: January, 1700 Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami

Students should be seated at computer workstations individually or in pairs. They should be asked to complete the exercise according to the instructions on the handout by using Google Earth, visiting the specified web sites, and writing their answers in the space provided underneath each question. It may be helpful to provide them with some basic instruction on using Google Earth if they do not have experience with it.

In GEO 311: Geoscience and Global Concerns, we engaged the students periodically in informal discussion during the exercise, and had them hand their activity sheets in at the end of the session for grading.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Undergraduate students typically find Google Earth intuitive and easy to use concerning navigation and viewing of mapped data. They may initially need some help learning how expand and collapse listing of data in the Places pane. Some people find saving Google Earth data confusing, however that skill is not needed for this exercise unless it is apportioned over multiple sessions. Students should be made aware of online resources that provide information on using Google Earth.

Boxing Day Tsunami Wave Travel Time Overlay
A Google Earth overlay of a Boxing Day Tsunami wave travel time map from the National Geophysical Data Center. Each line represents a half-hour of elapsed time since the source event. With time, colors proceed from red, through orange, yellow, green, light blue, and dark blue. Note that the lines are closer together in shallower, narrower straits, indicating that the waves travel more slowly there than through the open ocean. The 3D Viewer also contains data from the Boxing Day Tsunami KMZ file. Countries where deaths occurred are outlined and labeled in red.


Time needed for this exercise may vary depending upon the amount of previous experience students have had using Google Earth and the amount of time devoted to informal discussion during the exercise. Typically, 80 minutes should be sufficient for completion of the exercise if the students are familiar with Google Earth, but the exercise can be used effectively even if it is apportioned over multiple class sessions.

It is best to associate the exercise with some discussion in order to facilitate understanding of the material.

Links to resources are supplied below for additional exploration of this topic.

Assessment

Assessment for this exercise can consist of grading the answers that students hand in on their instruction sheets. The degree and manner of students' participation in accompanying discussions can also reveal what they have learned from the activity. Concepts presented in the activity can also form the basis of exam questions. For some of the questions, especially the final one, students are asked for judgments and opinions, therefore grading these questions can be quite subjective. For this question, answers may reasonably be expected to vary, therefore grading should be somewhat lenient, in order to enable the students to feel comfortable being creative.


References and Resources

Tsunami Information from SERC

SERC: Tsunami Visualizations

The Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 26, 2004

NGDC: Dec 26, 2004 Magnitude 9.0 Earthquake & Tsunami in the Indian Ocean
USGS: Magnitude 9.1 - OFF THE WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA 2004 December 26 00:58:53 UTC
Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection: The Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami - December 26, 2004
NGDC: Wave Travel Time Map
The Tsunami Disaster in Asia, 2004: An Annotated Directory of Resources
Tsunami Evaluation Coalition
Google: Tsunami Relief
Pacific Tsunami Museum
New York Times: Asia's Deadly Waves
NOAA Center for Tsunami Research: December 26, 2004 Indonesian Sumatra Earthquake and Tsunami Web Link Compilation and Data
Google Earth Community: Lessons on Tsunami of December 26, 2004
Google Earth Community: Laem Pom
Google Earth Community: Geological Uplift after Boxing Day Tsunami
Google Earth Community: Magnitude 8.9
December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami Event
Science@NASA: How the Earthquake affected Earth
Wikipedia: '2004 Indian Ocean earthquake

The Cascadia Tsunami of 1700

Geological Society of America Penrose Conference on "Great Cascadia Earthquake Tricentennial"
The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network: Historic Seismicity Catalog and Macroseismic Accounts for Cascadia, 1793-1929
The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network: The January, 1700 Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami
The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network: Dating the 1700 Cascadia Earthquake: Great Coastal Earthquakes in Native Stories
Science News: Japanese Shipwreck Adds To Evidence Of Great Cascadia Earthquake In 1700
AGU: Fault slip and seismic moment of the 1700 Cascadia earthquake inferred from Japanese tsunami descriptions
Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup: Tsunami Hazards in Coastal areas of Cascadia
Rice University: Cascadia (Pacific Northwest) Seismicity
Seattle Wiki: Cascadia Subduction Zone
Wikipedia: 1700 Cascadia earthquake
National Geographic News: Did North American Quake Cause 1700 Japanese Tsunami?

Fundamental Information about Using Google Earth

The Google Earth Student User Guide
Google Earth Tip Sheet (Acrobat (PDF) 440kB Nov20 08)
Google Earth User Guide: Introduction
Google Earth User Guide: Getting to Know Google Earth
Google Earth User Guide: Navigating in Google Earth
Google Earth User Guide: Finding Places and Directions
Google Earth User Guide: Using Layers
Google Earth User Guide: Measuring Distances and Areas
Google Earth User Guide: Viewing a Timeline

Tsunami Links

Tsunami and Earthquake Research at the USGS
UNESCO/IOC Global Tsunami Website

Tsunami Inundation Mapping for Alaska Communities

Tsunami Wave Simulation Java Applet

Tsunami Wave Similator (Shockwave)
NGDC Travel Time Maps
NGDC Boxing Day Tsunami Travel Time Map: Georeference this map in ArcGIS, trace the wave fronts as polylines, open the polylines in GE Pro, save as paths
USGS: Surviving a Tsunami—Lessons from Chile, Hawaii, and Japan
Tsunami Video - Key Video Clips Of The 2005 Tsunami As It Hits
Before and After Aerial Photos for 20 Locations
NGDC Hazards
USGS Boxing Day Tsunami Data
USGS: Jpegs showing Damage Areas
Sumatran Plate Boundary Project

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