Can an earthquake be compared to a drop of water on a pond?

Resources

Background
     •
Student Exploration
     • Teacher Resources & Activity
     • Poster
Vocabulary
Related Animations 
     • Travel Time Curves
     • Seismic Tomography

Are Earthquakes... like ripples on water?

  • Download the poster and other resources from the Resources box.

  • Send us feedback.
  •  

     

     

Earthquakes... like ripples on water?

A drop of water superimposed on the Wells, NV visualization provides a link between the pond above, and the data visualization below.  This discrepant image maps the unfamiliar concept of the spreading out of seismic waves (the target) to a similar but more familiar scenario of ripples on water radiating outwards in all directions after a droplet or pebble falls onto it (the analog). Not only is this visually discrepant, it also makes the material approachable by using ideas students are likely to have experienced.  An analogy map is also available here.

Quicktime (5.93 MB)


How is an earthquake LIKE ripples on/in water?

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. An analogy map is also available here.

Quicktime (9.74 MB)

How is an earthquake UNLIKE ripples on/in water?

Exploration of how an earthquake is UNLIKE ripples on water.  Dr. Geophysics helps explain 4 significant differences.

Quicktime (4.29 MB)

What do ripples on a pond look like?

Video of a pebble tossed into a pond. Clip provided by Larry Braile.

Quicktime (7.74 MB)

What do ripples on Earth look like?

As seismic waves radiate out from the epicenter of an earthquake and encounter Earth's surface, they cause the ground to move.  Unless the earthquake is nearby, the scale of these motions are generally too small, perhaps only .001mm (a fraction of the diameter of a human hair), and occurs over a time scale, 100s of seconds, that is too long for humans to “feel” or detect.  However, sensitive instruments such as seismographs are able to discern such changes and record them as seismograms.This visualization uses a color scale to indicate the change in amplitude of the ground through time as nearly 400 seismic stations record the February 21, 2008 M6.0 earthquake in Wells, NV.

Quicktime (5.02 MB)

Animations and videos are made in partnership with Earthscope, USGS, and Volcano Video & Graphics.

Please send feedback to Jenda Johnson.