Label: Earthquakes

November 19, 2013

Look at these train tracks. Can you think of what could have made them bend like that?


If you guessed an earthquake, you would be right. This is what was left after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake happened near Christchurch, New Zealand on September 4, 2010. I love this image because it helps us understand just how strong an earthquake is. While that measurement 7.1 may not mean much to us, seeing how the force of that earthquake can bend these solid steel rails really helps us to understand how much energy is released in an earthquake.

Imagine if you had been standing on this ground. It would be moving so forcefully under your feet that you would not be able to remain standing. You would be knocked off your feet by the powerful force of an earthquake like this one.


Read more in Seymour Simon’s book EARTHQUAKES.



Or, if your school subscribes to theStarWalk Kids Media eBook collection, you can read and listen to Seymour Simon’s DANGER! EARTHQUAKES.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Earthquakes, Cool Photo   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 26, 2012

Many of my readers were interested in yesterday’s "Writing Wednesday" story about the soccer ball belonging to a Japanese student that washed up on an Alaskan island more than a year after the big tsunami.

This is a photograph of Misaki Murakami, the teenager whose ball traveled nearly 3,500 miles (5,600 km) across the Pacific Ocean, from Rikuzentakata, Japan to Middleton Island, in Alaska.

In fact, it is not surprising that the ball showed up on the U.S. coastline - scientists expect that we will see even more debris in the coming weeks and months.


The reason is that when water rises or falls very quickly, it often creates a whirlpool. Think about what happens in the bathtub when you pull the plug and water starts emptying quickly out of the tub - you see a spinning whirlpool above the drain. This is what happens, on a much bigger scale, when a huge tsunami wave rushes in, and then pulls back from the shoreline.


This is a photograph, taken from a helicopter, of one of the massive whirlpools that appeared off the Japanese coast in March, 2011 after the 6.9 earthquake and tsunami. The water was rotating clockwise, which means it was pushing debris away from the coastline, into the Pacific Ocean, and toward the U.S. coast.





And that explains why Misaki’s soccer ball washed up on a beach in Alaska.


Seymour Simon’s new book, EXTREME EARTH RECORDS, is full of information and photographs about the biggest tsunamis, earthquakes, and many more Earth record breakers. It will be available in September, 2012.




Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Earthquakes, Oceans   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 25, 2012

Welcome to Writing Wednesday! Every week there is a new opportunity to publish your own creative writing on the Seymour Science blog. This week, we are asking you to read a science news story about a long-lost soccer ball, and then answer a question about that story.

The Facts:

  It is a good thing that Misaki Murakami’s name was on his soccer ball. He thought it was lost in last year’s tsunami in Japan, but it was returned to him after it washed up on an island in Alaska last weekend.

15-year-old Misaki Murakami was home when the tsunami struck Japan in March 2011, and he grabbed his pet dog and ran to safety on higher ground. His family lost everything, including their house, and have been living in temporary housing ever since. 

Misaki and his family members have been looking for their belongings, but the soccer ball is the first thing that has been found. His name and the name of his school were written on the ball with a Sharpie because this was not just any old soccer ball. It was a goodbye gift from his teacher and classmates when he had to change schools seven years ago. He has kept it next to his bed ever since.

Your Assignment: Once you have read and understood the story above, answer this question. Why was it so surprising that Misaki got his soccer ball back, and why was it important to him? Click "comments" below to write your answer.


Photo: NOAA - Jiji Press / AFP

Educators: Today’s Writing Wednesday is designed to use in support of CCSS Anchor Standard W.8: Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(16) Comments  •   Labels: Common Core, science news, Writing Wednesday, Earthquakes, Oceans   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 27, 2011

Part of celebrating the Earth this month is recognizing its awesome power. I have written many books about natural events like tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, and many other natural occurrences that we humans classify as "disasters" for ourselves. 

A reader named Emily A. wrote last week to ask what the record is for the longest earthquake. I responded by asking her to do some research and tell us what she found out (once a teacher, always a teacher, I guess).

Emily came back with the correct answer.

Location:                    Sumatra
Date:                          December 26, 2004
Size:                          9.1-9.3
How long it lasted:      10 minutes

  This is the longest (and third strongest) earthquake that was ever recorded on a seismograph.

It was an undersea earthquake that is also known as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Like the one that happened recently in Japan, it set off a series of devastating tsunamis up to 100 feet (30 meters) high all along the coast of the Indian Ocean, killing more than 225,000 people in eleven countries. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand were hardest hit. The Sumatra Earthquake happened along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where 81% of the world’s earthquakes occur. This famous photograph is of the tsunami striking Ao Nang, Thailand.

It is difficult to measure exactly how long an earthquake lasts, because the tremors start gradually and when the big shaking stops, the actual tremor is still dying down. But, scientists think this lasted anywhere from 8½ to 10 minutes, which is very long. As a comparison, the big Northridge Earthquake that occurred in California in 1994 lasted just 15 seconds.

The Sumatra Earthquake was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history.
With a magnitude of between 9.1 and 9.3, it is the second largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. 

Here is an interesting photograph, to show just how much the earth shifted during this massive quake. Some islands (like the one pictured here) grew as they were lifted above the water line, while others tipped over and partially submerged as they dropped back into the water. This island doubled in size during the quake. The land surrounding the green area was all underwater before the earthquake happened.

If you are interested in learning more about this record-breaking earthquake, Cal Tech has a website with more information, animations and graphics to explain what happened when this massive earthquake tore the earth apart across a fault break that was longer than the entire state of California.


Tsunami Photograph: David Rydevik

Island Photograph: Kerry Sieh, TO


What are you doing this Earth Month to contribute to the global effort to pledge a Billion Acts of Green? Click on "Comments," at the bottom of any Earth Day story, and tell me how you are making a difference. We will continue to accept your ideas through Thursday, April 28. Then, on Friday 4/29, we will publish all your comments in one big article, to honor each writer’s promise to protect our planet, and inspire other readers to do the same.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(4) Comments  •   Labels: Earthquakes, Kids Write, Earth, Earth Day 2011   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 29, 2011

A 12-year-old sixth grader named Meeps, from Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, sent me this original poem after I Skyped with a class there. Hasn’t Meeps done a good job of capturing the feelings of numbness and loss that we have seen in the faces of people in photographs of the recent earthquakes in Japan and Christchurch, New Zealand? This is a very good piece of writing.













Photograph: Aftermath of 1989 earthquake in Loma Prieta, California courtesy of U.S. Geological Service/C.E. Meyer

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Earthquakes, Kids Write, Poetry   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 21, 2011

Librarian Alissa Gonzalez wrote to me with a good question that I think many people are wondering about.

Dear Seymour: I read that many people, when receiving advanced warning of a tsunami, take their boats and sail out to sea to be safer (because the tsunami is only a huge, destructive wave at shore). I have been trying to explain this to someone with little success. Can you help me understand this better?

  Tsunami waves carry a huge amount of energy that is generated by the force of the earthquake.  When they are far out at sea, the waves are far apart, so that powerful energy is spread out over a broad space. The waves are not huge in height and may not even be very noticeable at a distance from a shore.

However, as tsunami waves get closer to shore, they pack closer together. That energy has to go somewhere, so it goes up, which means the height of the wave increases. The greater the height of the wave, the greater its destructive power, as it can wash over sea walls, over docks and boats, and even (as we saw in Japan) into communities where people live.

That’s why some sailors getting sufficient advance warning will take their ships out to sea to avoid having them crushed by the tsunami waves breaking on shore. 

Many readers have questions about earthquakes and tsunamis, and I have been writing often about them on the Seymour Science blog. You can read all about this subject by clicking on the label Earthquakes.



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(4) Comments  •   Labels: Earthquakes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 17, 2011


As the news about 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami in Japan continues to unfold, we all feel so sorry for the people of Sendai and the surrounding area. Many people are still without adequate food, water or shelter, and it is winter there, with temperatures overnight going down below freezing. And now, survivors must worry about exposure to radiation from the damaged nuclear power plants. Nature’s power can be awesome, but also devastating, as we are seeing each day when we look at the news.

I was in a school speaking to students this week, and many of them asked good questions about the incredibly strong earthquake and tsunami that happened last week in Japan. As I was answering their questions, I found myself saying that in the long run, this is going to be a huge and valuable learning experience for scientists. I hadn’t really thought about it until that moment, but this earthquake, and in particular the tsunami, have been filmed in a way that we have never seen before. There have been many, many photographs and videos taken of the devastation following earthquakes and tsunamis over the years. But in today’s digital age with HD video cameras on many cell phones and digital cameras, we have footage the likes of which we have never seen before, particularly of the tsunami as it was actually happening.

I told the students that this is going to allow scientists to learn a lot about tsunamis, and will certainly help us improve the computer modeling and prediction instruments that drive tsunami warning systems around the world. 

Sure enough, today I found this AFP (Agence France-Presse) news story about the reaction of Australian tsunami researchers to seeing the footage. "I think the impact of the waves going across and spreading well inland on relatively flat terrain was something that we’ve never seen before," Australian tsunami expert Ray Canterford told AFP. He added that while scientists had made progress on predicting tsunamis since the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean disaster in which some 220,000 people died, there was still work to be done. "There has been progress but it’s very unfortunate for the...

read more

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Earthquakes, Oceans   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 14, 2011


So many of our readers have questions following the terrible events in Japan over the weekend. This excellent website, from the US Geological Service, separates fact from fiction, and is full of good information about earthquakes.


Parents, Teachers and Librarians: There is also a detailed Teacher Guide for my EARTHQUAKES book, which you can use with kids to use to stimulate discussion and answer questions. It is a free, downloadable resource that we provide on my website for you to use, at home or in school.


Photo: A man rides a bicycle through a debris-strewn street in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture in northeastern Japan March 12. (Kyodo/Reuters)



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Earthquakes, Facts and Fables   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 11, 2011



Japan is part of the "Ring of Fire" - the area in the Pacific Ocean that has the strongest geological activity on Earth, including many earthquakes. So, tsunamis are not new to the Japanese people. Japanese artist Katsushita Kokusai did this famous painting of a tsunami wave off the city of Kanagawa in 1829.

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Earthquakes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 11, 2011


The terrible earthquake that hit Japan earlier today was a magnitude 8.9. That’s one of the biggest ever recorded. The devastation caused was bad enough, but the resulting tsunami is even worse.

A tsunami used to be called a tidal wave, but that’s not a correct term. Tsunamis have nothing to do with tides - those are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon (and the sun to a lesser degree). The violent shaking of the earth underneath the ocean causes tsunamis. Tsunamis can also travel across long distances on the ocean. At sea, a tsunami wave is scarcely noticeable, but when the wave comes close to shore, it builds up and up and can by many feet high. It’s too soon at this writing to know exactly what damage has been done, but it’s likely to be very great.

For readers who want to read more about earthquakes and why we seem to have had so many big ones this year, you can read my earlier blog post:  


Photograph: The tsunami crashing into homes in Natori, Japan. Courtesy Kyodo News, via Associated Press.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Earthquakes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

 1 2 >