Earthquakes... Like ripples on water?

In this interactive website, you can investigate the classic Earth science analogy; "Seismic waves radiate outward from an earthquake's epicenter like ripples on water". The investigation begins by watching a short thought-provoking animation that links the spreading of seismic wave to the more familiar scenario of ripples on water radiating outwards in all directions after a droplet falls onto a pool. Users have the opportunity to watch additional clips to consider how this analogy might be both like and unlike reality and to understanding how seismologists can use seismic waves to understand Earth's interior. 


Keypoints:

  • Seismic waves propagate outwards as wave fronts from the source in 3-dimensions (X, Y, & Z axes) and have a velocity
  • The amplitude of seismic waves is related to the amount of energy released from the source and decreases with distance from the source.
  • Seismic waves are both like and unlike ripples on water. 


Level: Novice

Open Resource
Share it

Related Animations

Exploration of how an earthquake is LIKE ripples on/in water. Dr. Geophysics guides you through the simple physics of potential energy and energy release. Analogies are a useful instructional strategy, especially in the science classroom. In this case, the analog is a drop of water hovering above and then falling into a pool of water, while the target is an earthquake.

Animation Novice

Part 2/2 Comparing seismic waves to ripples in water. This animation explores how seismic waves are UNLIKE ripples on water. Dr. Geophysics helps explain 4 significant differences.

Animation Novice

Data visualization of the data generated by over 400 seismograph stations in response to the February 21, 2008 earthquake in Wells, NV.

Animation Novice

As earthquake waves travel along the surface of the Earth, they cause the ground to move. The ground motions can be captured and displayed as a movie, providing a visual demonstration of these often indiscernible movements. 

 

Animation Novice

Related Lessons

Working in both small groups and as a whole class, students investigate the classic Earth science analogy: "Seismic waves radiate outward from an earthquake's epicenter like ripples on water". A discrepant image connects the unfamiliar concept of the spreading out of seismic waves to the more familiar scenario of ripples on water radiating outwards in all directions after a droplet falls onto a pool. 

Lesson Novice

The slinky is an effective tool for the demonstration seismic wave characteristics and wave propagation. Slinkys can be used both individually and in various combinations to demonstration different concepts.

Lesson Novice

Related Posters

This poster combines a visualization of ground motion resulting from the February 21, 2008 M 6.0 earthquake that occurred near Wells, NV, with the image of a faucet to illustrate a classic Earth science functional analogy: "Seismic waves radiate outward from an earthquake's epicenter like ripples on water".

Poster Novice