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Exploring Broadband Seismic Data in the Classroom

Access data from the Broadband Seismic Data Collection Center

The Dataset

This site is a collection and distribution of seismic data from several regional seismic networks, small aperture arrays and portable instrumental deployments. The webpage contains detailed information and research results for all the networks the Broadband Seismic Data Collection Center operates. Users can follow numerous seismic information links including current earthquakes recorded on the Anza network, deployment information, current projects and research, a glossary, educational activities, and additional seismic links.

Use and Relevance

Scientists use this data to provide digital recordings of high-resolution seismic data for earthquakes and to provide real-time data to the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN), other regional networks, and to the greater San Diego Community (from ANZA 2003 Proposal).

Use in Teaching

Seismic event map for the ANZA network in Southern California, map generated by the Broadband Seismic Data Collection Center .

This data can be used to teach the following topics and skills in Geophysics and Structural Geology:



  • Understanding the collection and transmission of seismic data
  • Interpreting earthquake data parameters, including location, depth, and magnitude
  • Using seismic data to map plate boundaries
  • Mapping Plate Boundaries is an interactive lecture example from Starting Point.
  • Using seismic data to make predictions about where an earthquake might occur
  • The Earth Exploration Toolbook has a chapter on Investigating Earthquakes: GIS Mapping and Analysis that uses USGS and IRIS data to conduct GIS analyses. Users interpret earthquake distribution and activity and analyze the potential for predicting future earthquakes.
  • Examining relationships between earthquake parameters and the underlying rock structure

Exploring the Data

Data Type and Presentation

The site provides realtime and historical data as GIF images. Data is available as maps representing location and scale of seismic activity and as a graphical representation of waveforms.

Accessing the Data

Data can be accessed by exploring several portals:
  • Current Quakes
  • This section provides data for the ANZA network in Southern California and for the IRIS Broadband Array deployment in Venezuela. Maps can be generated for local, regional, and global events. Maps display seismic activity as squares that are color coded to represent temporal information. Square size correlates with earthquake magnitude (ranging from <2 to 8). Event tables provide further data parameters including location, depth, time, and magnitude.

  • Special Events
  • This section provides data for recent earthquakes and aftershocks are shown on maps. Event parameters including location, depth, time and magnitude are shown and a graphical representation of waveforms is provided.

  • Tools
  • This section provides realtime data as seismograms showing 1 hour of waveforms for stations in the ANZA network.

    Manipulating Data and Creating Visualizations

    Maps of seismic events and graphs of waveforms can be generated and printed for comparative analyses. The images cannot be further manipulated.

    Tools for Data Manipulation

    Data in the form of maps or waveform graphs can be downloaded and printed. There are no programs for further manipulation of the data.

    About the Data

    Collection Methods

    Seismometers are deployed to various locations. Data is sent via wireless communications and is archived at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS). Information about specific sensors is provided by the Broadband Seismic Data Collection Center.

    Limitations and Sources of Error

    Background noise is a common source of error in seismographic data. Sensors pick up vibrations, resulting in a low noise background. The Broadband Seismic Data Collection Center provides a set of FAQs that addresses questions about the data and sources of error.

    References and Resources

    Scientific References that Use this Dataset

    • A bibliography is available highlighting publications from the Broadband Seismic Data Collection Center.

    Education Resources that Use this Dataset

    • 'Education and Outreach Based on Data from the Anza Seismic Network in Southern California' is an article from Seismological Research Letters that describes collaborations amongst scientists and the community to provide earthquake education for the public and local school communities.

    Other Related Scientific References

    • 'Earthquake prediction: A seismic shift in thinking' is a article from Nature that discusses the debate regarding accuracy in predicting earthquakes.
    • 'Mantle Convection and Plate Tectonics: Toward an Integrated Physical and Chemical Theory' is an article from Science that reviews the physics of plate tectonics.

    Other related Education Resources

    Related Links