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Sea Floor Spreading II

Activity and Starting Point page by R.M. MacKay. Clark College, Physics and Meteorology.
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


In this Activity students import ocean bathymetry data from text files. Students then graph these observations along with model predictions to assess the model's ability to simulate the observed topographic features of the North Atlantic.

Brief overview of Ocean Depth/ Sea Floor Spreading Model

Activity I is the first part of this activity for students completely unfamiliar with Excel.

Learning Goals

Context for Use

Use in introductory geoscience courses in which instructors wish to train students to use Excel for data downloads and graphing, and for which ocean topography is an appropriate topic.

Teaching Materials

We provide the following resources with this module:

Figure 1. Shows how well the model fits to observations for the cross-section of the North Atlantic along 50° N shown in the Figure 2 below.

Figure 2. The cross-section of the North Atlantic along 50° N used for the observations of Figure 1 above. This also shows the true complexity of ocean floor topography.

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity will take students about two hours to complete. Students unfamiliar with Excel should complete Acivity I before working through this activity as less detailed instructions are provided in this second activity. Students should be able to work through this activity at home or in a computer lab will no supervision. Students more familiar with Excel can work through this activity more quickly.


Grading the completed activity sheet provided can be used as an assessment of student understanding. The future success of students on other Excel related activities is also another useful assessment tool.

A link to an Excel Answers Document is provided above with several sheets representing different levels of completion for this activity. This can help instructors:

References and Resources


Geoscience:Geology, Oceanography

Resource Type

Activities:Lab Activity

Special Interest


Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Oceans, Solid Earth


Earth surface, Time/Earth History, Ocean, Solid Earth


Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Oceanography

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