Evaluating an Illinois Earthquake

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1 Evaluating an Illinois Earthquake Grade Level: 7-8 Adapted from an activity by Robert A. Bauer, GeoActivity HAZD-1, ISGS GeoActivities Series, Activities and Other Resources for Teaching Geology, Illinois State Geological Survey. [See Print Resources for ordering information.] Purpose: To raise awareness of earthquakes in Illinois. Suggested Goals: 1. To develop an awareness of the occurrences of earthquakes in Illinois and their past and potential future damage. 2. To look at the distribution of earthquakes in a central US region, including; Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio. 3. To introduce the Mercalli intensity scale and the Richter magnitude scale and compare and contrast them with each other. Objectives: On completion of this lesson, students will be able to: 1. To show, using real data, how the distribution of damage from an earthquake is dependent on regional geology. 2. Recognize the terms: earthquake, epicenter, intensity, magnitude, Modified Mercalli intensity scale, Richter magnitude scale, seismograph. Background: Before beginning this activity, the instructor needs to define for students both the Mercalli intensity scale and the Richter magnitude scale, comparing and contrasting them with each other (descriptions of both are attached at the end of this lesson). Explain to students how geologic materials play a major role in the damage that can occur in an earthquake-affected area. It has been known for decades that loose, unconsolidated surface materials can amplify earthquake ground motions that are traveling through the bedrock. This amplification causes more shaking and, hence, more damage to structures. Illinois has an abundance of loose, unconsolidated surface materials, particularly along the major river valleys. The distribution of greatest intensities illustrated by the map clearly shows that the major river valleys of Illinois (Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, and Wabash Rivers) are the areas with the greatest potential for damage from an earthquake. Media coverage after major earthquakes often includes maps that show simple concentric rings of reduced damage spreading out from the epicenter. In reality, as this activity shows, the pattern of damage is much more complex and depends on geologic materials and distance.

2 On the map used for this activity, points labeled intensity 8 correspond to the epicenter of this earthquake, but that does not necessarily have to be the case. Local geology could have caused the severe damage in this locality by intensifying ground motions there while the epicenter could have been some distance away. The 1985 Mexico City earthquake provides an example of such a situation. The epicenter was off the coast of Acapulco, but little damage occurred in this area of exposed bedrock. The most severe damage occurred in Mexico City, located about 150 miles away, which was built on thick ancient lake deposits and fill. Materials: Handouts for each student/group (included in the PDF download version of this lesson): o Midwest earthquake intensity map o Evaluating an Illinois Earthquake Investigation Sheet Crayons, colored pencils, or markers (2 colors per student/group) Procedure: 1. Discuss the Richter magnitude scale and Mercalli intensity scale; compare and contrast. 2. Examine the Midwest earthquake intensity map. 3. Complete the Evaluating and Illinois Earthquake Investigation Sheet. Assessment: 1. Observe participation in discussions. 2. Evaluate answers to worksheet questions. Print Resources: Treworgy, J., ed ISGS GeoActivities Series: Activities and Other Resources for Teaching Geology. Champaign, IL: Illinois State Geological Survey. [This notebook, filled with lessons (geared for grades 4-12) and an abundance of background material, can be purchased for $20 from: ISGS, Attn: Order Dept., 615 East Peabody Dr., Champaign, IL or from their Web site: Lesson Specifics: Skills - investigation, observation, predicting, map reading, estimating, measuring Setting - classroom Time Required - one 40-minute class session Group size - whole class Illinois State Board of Education Goals and Standards: 11.A.2b: Collect data for investigations using scientific process skills including observing, estimating and measuring. 11.A.2d: Use data to produce reasonable explanations.

3 11.A.2e: Report and display the results of individual and group investigations. 12.E.2a: Identify and explain natural cycles of the Earth's land, water and atmospheric systems (e.g., rock cycle, water cycle, weather patterns).

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5 Evaluating an Illinois Earthquake Investigation Sheet Attached is a map of the central United States showing the intensity measurements for an earthquake that occurred on October 31, Intensities 6-7 have been marked to aid in seeing their distribution. Color each intensity level 6 and 7 a different color. Refer to this map to answer the following questions. 1. Where do you think the epicenter of the earthquake was located? 2. Explain why areas of Intensity 4 can be in close proximity to areas of Intensity Many of the Intensity 6s and 7s are found along what natural feature(s)? 4. What types of geologic materials would you expect to find along these features? (Exposed bedrock? Sand and gravel?) 5. Your choice of epicenter location (in question 1) may not have been correct. Why?

6 Evaluating an Illinois Earthquake Investigation Sheet Answer Key Attached is a map of the central United States showing the intensity measurements for an earthquake that occurred on October 31, Intensities 6-7 have been marked to aid in seeing their distribution. Color each intensity level 6 and 7 a different color. Refer to this map to answer the following questions. 1. Where do you think the epicenter of the earthquake was located? Near the southernmost tip of Illinois and adjacent part of Missouri where the Intensity 8 levels are marked. 2. Explain why areas of Intensity 4 can be in close proximity to areas of Intensity 7. The materials at the surface are different and behave differently in an earthquake. 3. Many of the Intensity 6s and 7s are found along what natural feature(s)? Major rivers (Mississippi, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Wabash Rivers). 4. What types of geologic materials would you expect to find along these features? (Exposed bedrock? Sand and gravel?) Sand and gravel. 5. Your choice of epicenter location (in question 1) may not have been correct. Why? My choice of epicenter location may have just been an area of the weakest geologic materials.

7 The Richter Magnitude Scale Richter Magnitudes Earthquake Effects Less than 3.5 Generally not felt, but recorded Often felt, but rarely causes damage. Under 6.0 At most slight damage to well-designed buildings. Can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions Can be destructive in areas up to about 100 kilometers across where people live Major earthquake. Can cause serious damage over larger areas. 8 or greater Great earthquake. Can cause serious damage in areas several hundred kilometers across. Seismic waves are the vibrations from earthquakes that travel through the Earth; they are recorded on instruments called seismographs. Seismographs record a zig-zag trace that shows the varying amplitude of ground oscillations beneath the instrument. Sensitive seismographs, which greatly magnify these ground motions, can detect strong earthquakes from sources anywhere in the world. The time, locations, and magnitude of an earthquake can be determined from the data recorded by seismograph stations. The Richter magnitude scale was developed in 1935 by Charles F. Richter of the California Institute of Technology as a mathematical device to compare the size of earthquakes. The magnitude of an earthquake is determined from the logarithm of the amplitude of waves recorded by seismographs. Adjustments are included for the variation in the distance between the various seismographs and the epicenter of the earthquakes. On the Richter Scale, magnitude is expressed in whole numbers and decimal fractions. For example, a magnitude 5.3 might be computed for a moderate earthquake, and a strong earthquake might be rated as magnitude 6.3. Because of the logarithmic basis of the scale, each whole number increase in magnitude represents a tenfold increase in measured amplitude; as an estimate of energy, each whole number step in the magnitude scale corresponds to the release of about 31 times more energy than the amount associated with the preceding whole number value. At first, the Richter Scale could be applied only to the records from instruments of identical manufacture. Now, instruments are carefully calibrated with respect to each other. Thus, magnitude can be computed from the record of any calibrated seismograph. Earthquakes with magnitude of about 2.0 or less are usually call microearthquakes; they are not commonly felt by people and are generally recorded only on local

8 seismographs. Events with magnitudes of about 4.5 or greater - there are several thousand such shocks annually - are strong enough to be recorded by sensitive seismographs all over the world. Great earthquakes, such as the 1964 Good Friday earthquake in Alaska, have magnitudes of 8.0 or higher. On the average, one earthquake of such size occurs somewhere in the world each year. The Richter Scale has no upper limit. Recently, another scale called the moment magnitude scale has been devised for more precise study of great earthquakes. The Richter Scale is not used to express damage. An earthquake in a densely populated area which results in many deaths and considerable damage may have the same magnitude as a shock in a remote area that does nothing more than frighten the wildlife. Large-magnitude earthquakes that occur beneath the oceans may not even be felt by humans.

9 The Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale The following is an abbreviated description of the 12 levels of Modified Mercalli intensity. Intensity Indicator Brief Description of Effects I Not felt except by a very few under especially favorable conditions. II Felt only by a few persons at rest, especially on upper floors of buildings. III Felt quite noticeably by persons indoors, especially on upper floors of buildings. Many people do not recognize it as an earthquake. Standing motor cars may rock slightly. Vibrations similar to the passing of a truck. Duration estimated. IV Felt indoors by many, outdoors by few during the day. At night, some awakened. Dishes, windows, doors disturbed; walls make cracking sound. Sensation like heavy truck striking building. Standing motor cars rocked noticeably. V Felt by nearly everyone; many awakened. Some dishes, windows broken. Unstable objects overturned. Pendulum clocks may stop. VI Felt by all, many frightened. Some heavy furniture moved; a few instances of fallen plaster. Damage slight. VII Damage negligible in buildings of good design and construction; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed structures; some chimneys broken. VIII Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable damage in ordinary substantial buildings with partial collapse. Damage great in poorly built structures. Fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls. Heavy furniture overturned. IX Damage considerable in specially designed structures; welldesigned frame structures thrown out of plumb. Damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations. X Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations. Rails bent. XI XII Few, if any (masonry) structures remain standing. Bridges destroyed. Rails bent greatly. Damage total. Lines of sight and level are distorted. Objects thrown into the air. The effect of an earthquake on the Earth's surface is called the intensity. The intensity scale consists of a series of certain key responses such as people awakening, movement of furniture, damage to chimneys, and finally - total destruction. Although

10 numerous intensity scales have been developed over the last several hundred years to evaluate the effects of earthquakes, the one currently used in the United States is the Modified Mercalli (MM) Intensity Scale. It was developed in 1931 by the American seismologists Harry Wood and Frank Neumann. This scale, composed of 12 increasing levels of intensity that range from imperceptible shaking to catastrophic destruction, is designated by Roman numerals. It does not have a mathematical basis; instead it is an arbitrary ranking based on observed effects. The Modified Mercalli Intensity value assigned to a specific site after an earthquake has a more meaningful measure of severity to the nonscientist than the magnitude because intensity refers to the effects actually experienced at that place. After the occurrence of widely-felt earthquakes, the Geological Survey mails questionnaires to postmasters in the disturbed area requesting the information so that intensity values can be assigned. The results of this postal canvass and information furnished by other sources are used to assign an intensity within the felt area. The maximum observed intensity generally occurs near the epicenter. The lower numbers of the intensity scale generally deal with the manner in which the earthquake is felt by people. The higher numbers of the scale are based on observed structural damage. Structural engineers usually contribute information for assigning intensity values of VIII or above.

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