Human Dimension: Natural Hazards

A Model of Three Faults

One of the most frightening and destructive phenomena of nature is a severe earthquake and its terrible aftereffects. An earthquake is a sudden movement of the Earth, caused by the abrupt release of strain that has accumulated over a long time. For hundreds of millions of years, the forces of plate tectonics have shaped the Earth as the huge plates that form the Earth's surface slowly move over, under and past each other. Sometimes the movement is gradual. At other times, the plates are locked together, unable to release the accumulating energy. When the accumulated energy grows strong enough, the plates break free. If the earthquake occurs in a populated area, it may cause many deaths and injuries and extensive property damage.

Burning Issues

Students will become familiar with fire terminology, realize how fire can be used as a management tool, and better understand the factors that need to be considered when planning a prescribed burn.

Cracked Plates & Tectonics

In this activity, you’ll investigate dynamics in Earth’s crust that explain multiple Earth science phenomena.

Disaster Supplies Kit

Prepare a kit in case of natural hazards or a disaster. This list from FEMA and the Red Cross will have you prepared for almost any emergency!

Earthquake Machine

An earthquake simulation activity from IRIS.

Earthquake on the Playground

Push away from those paper seismograms and get outside to make your own earthquake waves! You're going to learn about earthquake location kinesthetically. In the activity below, you will model how earthquake waves travel through the Earth at different speeds. You also will construct and utilize a graph to characterize the relationship between distance and time of travel of seismic waves (a travel-time curve). Finally, you'll use the constructed travel-time curves to locate the epicenter of a simulated earthquake by triangulation.

Exploring Geoheritage From Space

 Great images of geoheritage sites can be found everywhere.  But no one holding a camera on Earth can “back away” far enough to get the extraordinary perspective captured by NASA satellites. In celebration of Earth Science Week 2016, NASA's Earth Observatory has created a special collection of images and articles showcasing geoheritage sites in America’s National Parks.


Learn the dangers of flooding in this activity, where students explore soil porosity and permeability.

How Dangerous Are Tsunamis?

Imagine playing beside the ocean, when suddenly, the water drops. Where the water used to be, there are wriggling fish and ribbons of seaweed. What do you do?


When it comes to slipping, sliding, and stability in soils, the key word is “liquefaction.”

During an event like an earthquake, liquefaction is the process by which saturated soil behaves like a liquid. This can be problematic, as a liquid soil loses structure and can cause buildings to sink, foundations to crack, and soil to slide down slopes all at once.

How does the type of soil affect how much a house will sink or shift during an earthquake? Conduct an experiment to test your ideas!


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