Tsunami Early Warning Demonstration

Cody Bomberger and Bobby Nash (UNAVCO Interns), Daniel Zietlow (UNAVCO), & David Thesenga (Alexander Dawson School)

EarthScope Consortium logo. Concentric circles in red grading to purple.

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This hands-on demonstration illustrates how instruments can be used to warn people of a tsunami. The same principles can be applied to earthquake early warning. With an older audience, this is a demonstration that can be used to start a conversation. With a younger audience, this activity is a game.

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This demonstration can be used as part of any introductory earth science course to complement student understanding of tsunamis and early warning systems.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should understand the basic of a tsunami and how they are generated. This demonstration is designed to support and augment that understanding.

How the activity is situated in the course

This demonstration can be used at any time in an earth science class, though is particularly useful when discussing tsunamis and early warning. This activity needs 5- 15minutes, depending on questions and extensions into an activity about tsunami preparedness.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • A tsunami is a large wave of water that can cause destruction to coastal communities.
  • Tsunamis are generated by earthquakes that happen underwater.
  • Scientists can detect tsunami waves before they reach land using GPS installed on buoys in the ocean.
  • GPS instruments can be used to warn people of an incoming tsunami.
  • Earthquake early warning systems use the same principles as tsunami early warning systems.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description and Teaching Materials

Tsunami Early Warning Demonstration Write-up (Acrobat (PDF) 52kB Nov12 21)
Tsunami Detection Buoy Locations (Acrobat (PDF) 1.5MB Nov12 21)

Teaching Notes and Tips

A full video of the Tsunami Early Warning Demonstration can be found on the UNAVCO YouTube channel.


There are some thought questions included in the exercise. These are intended primarily for stimulating discussion. There is no formal assessment beyond formative for this exercise.

References and Resources