Earthquake Early Warning Demonstration
This hands-on demonstration illustrates how GPS instruments can be used in earthquake early warning systems to alert people of impending shaking. The same principles can be applied to other types of early warning systems (such as tsunami) or to early warning systems using a different type of geophysical sensor (such as a seismometer instead of a GPS).
This demo works best with a large audience (ideally over 30 people) in an auditorium. A few people are selected to be either surgeons, GPS stations, or a warning siren, with everyone else forming an earthquake "wave."
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
It helps if learners have a general understanding of GPS and earthquakes.
How the activity is situated in the course
This demonstration can be used at any time in an earth science class particularly within lessons about earthquakes, earthquake early warning, and preparedness. It can be used as an introductory demonstration for learners in classroom and informal settings. The demonstration takes about 5 - 20 minutes of class time.
Content/concepts goals for this activity
- When earthquakes happen, they radiate seismic energy as different types of waves.
- The farther you are from an earthquake, the longer it takes to begin feeling shaking.
- A network of GPS systems can be used to monitor the motion of the ground and how the earthquake waves are moving.
- Knowing when shaking will begin is important to the general public (in order to get to safety), infrastructure (to protect power stations or shut down public transportation), medical services (to halt on-going surgeries), and emergency personnel.
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Other skills goals for this activity
Description and Teaching Materials
Earthquake Early Warning Demonstration (Acrobat (PDF) 66kB Oct31 21)
This is a demonstration and has no formal assessment.
References and Resources
- 2004 Sumatra Earthquake and Tsunami - Tying together earthquakes, tsunamis, and early warning systems (SERC) - In this activity, students study seismograms that recorded the 2004 Sumatra earthquake to determine the epicenter of the quake and then track the resulting tsunami to determine how much time there would have been for evacuation had an early warning system been in place.
- GPS and Earthquake Early Warning (UNAVCO Video)
- Types of Seismic Waves (P wave, S wave, Surface wave) (Classroom Lecture Video)
- Earthquake Early Warning and ShakeAlert (USGS)