Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Seismic Wave Simulator

Contributor
Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS)
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Model , Simulation , Demonstration
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This simulation allows for visualization of earthquake waves traveling through Earth's interior and radiating outward on the surface. It includes a selection of recent large earthquakes that can be chosen by users to view the resulting seismic waves as they travel through Earth's interior and across the surface. An explanation of what you will see in the simulation is included as well as links to the chosen simulated earthquake for further study.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • High School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

HS-ESS2-3 Develop a model based on evidence of Earth’s interior to describe the cycling of matter by thermal convection.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on both a one-dimensional model of Earth, with radial layers determined by density, and a three-dimensional model, which is controlled by mantle convection and the resulting plate tectonics. Examples of evidence include maps of Earth’s three-dimensional structure obtained from seismic waves, records of the rate of change of Earth’s magnetic field (as constraints on convection in the outer core), and identification of the composition of Earth’s layers from high-pressure laboratory experiments.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The visualization of the motion of seismic waves inside the Earth allows students to develop a model of the Earth’s interior that explains the reflection and refraction of seismic waves in the interior of the Earth. S-waves are not transmitted through liquid. This can be seen in the visualization where the S-waves reflect off of the liquid outer core of the Earth.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students can use the visualization to develop a model of the Earth’s interior based on the motion of both P-waves and S-waves in the interior of the Earth based on their reflection and refraction at different depths. For example: S-waves are not transmitted by liquid. This can be seen in the visualization where the S-waves reflect off the liquid outer core of the Earth. This information is explained in detail on the Explanation link.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students can use the motion of P-waves and S-waves in the visualization of each earthquake to develop their model of the Earth’s interior. For example: S-waves do not transmit through liquid. This can be seen where the reflect off the liquid outer core. But they do transmit through solid material. This can be seen where they travel through the solid inner core.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
While the visualization software does not show the cycling of matter in the Earth’s interior, the release of energy via an earthquake is caused by the buildup of stress in rocks due to the motion of the Earth’s tectonic plates. The solid inner core and liquid outer core of the Earth’s interior are an indication that the interior of the Earth is still cycling matter. The liquid outer core is an indication that heat is rising from the center of the Earth that ultimately drives the cycling of matter in the interior of the Earth and the motion of the tectonic plates. Students could imagine a homogeneous, solid (mostly cool) interior for the Earth and then describe the motion of seismic waves through this model of the Earth.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Students are using actual seismic wave data from recent large earthquakes to examine the interior structure of the Earth. Students can gain proficiency toward the practice of developing and using models by viewing the motion of seismic waves through the interior of the Earth for several earthquakes. The disciplinary core idea is addressed using the evidence from the seismic data that shows the solid inner core and liquid outer core of the Earth. The crosscutting concept of energy driving the motion of the interior of the Earth is implicitly evident in the visualization given that the solid inner core and liquid outer core can be seen in the seismic data. If the Earth’s interior was not still cycling energy, the interior would be more homogeneous. Students then begin building their own model of the Earth’s interior through their three dimensional learning.

  • Instructional Supports: This visualization software provides no student instructional supports. A teacher can use the software as a compliment to a classroom lecture on earthquakes and seismic wave motion. After viewing the visualization for seismic motion for several earthquakes, students could be asked to argue from evidence for a model of the Earth’s interior. The software can be used to show, at a basic level, how seismic waves from all earthquakes move through the Earth in the same way (i.e the magnitude of the earthquake does not affect the type of seismic waves generated or their speed or motion through the Earth.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This visualization software provides no monitoring of student progress. Student progress could be monitored by asking students to explain their model of the Earth’s interior before using the visualization software and then again after using the visualization software.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource runs in a web browser on a Mac or PC.. The software allows students to adjust several parameters to get a better understanding of how seismic waves travel through the interior and along the surface of the Earth including selecting from a number of recent large earthquakes and changing the speed of visualization.