Locating the Epicenter of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake & Planning Ahead

Ana Garcia-Garcia, Earth Sciences, Monterey Peninsula College


This activity uses real data from 7 seismographs across Southern California to identify the location of the epicenter of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which had a moment magnitude (Mw) of 6.7. The information from seven different stations was recorded on January 17, 1994. As 2014 is the 20 year anniversary of this event, it is appropriate to use this example to discuss what can happen in urban areas in a big earthquake.

Individuals with expertise/responsibilities in the following areas have helped create the case study:
The information comes from:

Key teaching points:
  • What is an earthquake and its relationship with fault/s
  • Understand P and S waves
  • What is an epicenter and how to locate it
  • Understand a Shake map
  • Discussion of casualties/economic losses in calculated (and possible) scenarios

How this example is used in the classroom:
This is a lab activity that the students can work and discuss in groups. It complements the earthquake lecture. The students learn to understand/discuss these topics, which are very common in this part of the States.


Epicenter Location video:

Quake Basic Information:

Northridge 20 Years Link:

Northridge Earthquake Anniversary: Quake readiness ranges widely at 'Epicenter U, from KPCC radio

Supporting Files

Activity Northridge 1994 (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 847kB Mar31 14)