Plotting Earthquake Epicenters on a World Map

In this activity, students plot worldwide earthquake epicenters using current reports of seismicity available from the IRIS Seismic Monitor. These plots reveal narrow zones of seismic activity globally that will aid in understanding plate tectonics. 

This activity is designed to stimulate interest in global earthquake patterns and their causes. It provided a natural transition to teaching about plate tectonics. The inquiry nature of the activity promotes critical thinking and questioning by the students. 

This activity is made up of two lessons. The first, Where in the World? takes approximately 50 minutes, and reviews latitude and longitude, and the use of earthquake magnitude and depth. The second, What's Shaking? is a long-term plotting exercise in which students regularly gather earthquake data throughout the academic year (or semester) and plot them on a world wall map. 

Level: Novice

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Related Software-Web-Apps

The IRIS Earthquake Browser (IEB) is an interactive map for exploring millions of seismic event epicenters (normally earthquakes) on a map of the world. Selections of up to 5000 events can also be viewed in 3D and freely rotated with the 3D Viewer companion tool.

Software-Web-App Novice
A beautiful map of the latest earthquakes in near-real time. The map also provides links to related resources, news, and connections to 3D maps.
Software-Web-App Novice

Related Lessons

In this exercise, students will learn about the various types of plate boundaries, investigate well-known examples of some of these boundaries, and then apply what they have learned to East Africa to determine the most likely cause of seismicity in this area of the world.

Lesson Novice