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Measuring Earthquake Magnitude

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Tsunami or No Tsunami
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Tsunami or No Tsunami

 

Credit: United States Geological Survey
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2004_tsunami_animation.gif
License: CC BY-NC 3.0


Some earthquakes around Indonesia generate tsunami and some do not. Earthquakes caused by the convergence of plates in a trench are more likely to.

Why It Matters

  • The 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami killed almost twice as many people as the second deadliest tsunami on record.
  • The tsunami was the result of a magnitude 9.1 quake off of Sumatra, Indonesia.
  • Subduction off the Indonesian coast produces many large earthquakes.
  • Not all of these earthquakes generate tsunami.
  • Tsunamis can be caused by the sea floor distorting and vertically deplacing the water on top. The four images below show the process of how an earthquake casues a tsunami. 1) Tectonic plate boundary prior to the earthquake. 2) Stress overtime of the overriding plate causes tectonic uplift. 3) Plate slips seward, causing subsidence and provides water with energy starting a tsunami. 4) The energy in the water creates tsunami waves that move toward (growing bigger) and away from shore.
  • Credit: Brian F. Atwater, Marco Cisternas V., Joanne Bourgeois, Walter C. Dudley, James W. Hendley II, and Peter H.Stauffer
    Source: http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/c1187/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    How an earthquake creates a tsunami [Figure2]

     

Can You Apply It?

With the link below, learn more about tsunami. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What do you think would have happened if the Boxing Day earthquake had been magnitude 7.1 instead of 9.1? Why?
  2. What was the geophysics of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami?
  3. What was the geophysics of the 2012 earthquake? Why was there no significant tsunami?
  4. How does the tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean work?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: United States Geological Survey; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2004_tsunami_animation.gif; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Brian F. Atwater, Marco Cisternas V., Joanne Bourgeois, Walter C. Dudley, James W. Hendley II, and Peter H.Stauffer; Source: http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/c1187/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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