Ideas for Teaching

How big was that quake?

This page by Dr. Eric Baer of Highline Community College examines several quantitative concepts that our students struggle with when thinking about earthquake magnitude and size:

  • the difference between earthquake magnitude, damage (intensity), and shaking,
  • quantitatively measuring earthquake size including magnitudes, moment, and energy released,
  • measuring earthquake damage, including intensity and the factors that determine intensity,
  • how to measure earthquake shaking

This work is integrated into the Teaching Quantitative Literacy module of the Teaching Quantitative Skills in the Geosciences website. Additional pages examine related quantitative concepts:


Vignettes are stand-alone, illustrated electronic case studies that teach about geomorphology, surface processes, and/or Quaternary history. They are short, place-based examples that allow instructors to customize their class' approach to learning. Click here to browse the full collection of Vignettes.

Coastline changes to Aceh from from the great 2004 Sumatra-Andaman Earthquake
In addition to generating a devastating tsunami, the great 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake permanently dropped the Acehenese coastline by up to 1 m (Figure 1), and uplifted nearby islands by up to 2 m.

Megathrust earthquakes, coastal uplift, and emergent marine terraces of Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula
Catastrophic earthquake events are notable for the sudden geomorphic change that they bring to coastlines through coseismic uplift and subsidence. Understanding how these sudden changes affect the long-term growth and decay of coastal topography is an intriguing puzzle for geomorphologists.

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