Earthquakes Living Lab

Southern California

On January 17, 1994, people in Southern California were jolted by a major earthquake that resulted in ~$20 billion in damages even though this area had anticipated and designed for earthquake activity. The 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake tested many theories related to building structures, highway designs and bridges. This earthquake forced engineers to rethink how they design buildings.

The links on this page focus primarily on how scientists use evidence to explain the theory of plate tectonics, how the Earth changes over time, and the results of powerful natural events such as earthquake activity.

Use the current earthquake data to plot the latitude and longitude of 10 earthquakes that have happened in the last week. What patterns do you notice regarding where earthquakes take place?

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How have the Earth’s continents changed over time?

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What is the Theory of Plate Tectonics? What evidence supports the Theory of Plate Tectonics?

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General information on plate tectonics, including images, animations and explanations.

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How do scientists use evidence to support the theory of plate tectonics? How do scientists use drilling evidence, fossil evidence and sea floor spreading to support the theory of plate tectonics?

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How do scientists use the fossil record to explain the theory of plate tectonics?

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Describe three ways that tectonic plates move. What are the outcomes of this movement? What causes this movement?

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Using the map, locate two areas in the world that show each of the plate movements. What are the consequences of tectonic plate movement? What geologic features are created and destroyed?

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What are the effects of plates moving against each other? What physical features are created in these areas? How does this affect the West Coast?

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How does subduction change the Earth’s surface?

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What are the effects of plates moving away from each other? What physical features are created in these areas?

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How do scientists explain tectonic plate movement?

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