May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Online California Tsunami Resources

Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Cindy Pridmore

For many of our coastal counties, the month of March has become the month of tsunami awareness and preparedness, culminating with “National Tsunami Preparedness Week” the last week of March.

This year March 11 marked the third anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku, Japan earthquake and tsunami, followed by the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Great Alaska earthquake and tsunami on March 27. For many geologists and seismologists, the recognition of these events gave quiet pause and reflection about how far we have come in our understanding of the scientific origin of these types of catastrophic events, as well as how far we still have to go to become better prepared for them. Both events had far-reaching effects on California.

In 1964 at the time of the Great Alaska earthquake and tsunami, plate tectonics was a newly evolving theory and not yet capable of explaining large magnitude 9+ earthquakes or the generation of devastating tsunamis. U.S. Geological Survey geologists were immediately deployed to Alaska following the earthquake and their field studies provided evidence to understand not only what had happened in the 1964 event, but also helped to solidify basic plate tectonic theory and the interrelationships of subduction zones, volcanic arcs, and deep ocean trenches that we all now take for granted. Fast forward to the future; just a few years back I was beginning to pay attention to what was in my own son’s elementary school science curriculum, and I was delighted to find in 6th grade earth science text books the concepts, that back in the mid-1970s, my nearing-retirement-age university professors had been unsure of teaching. We have come a long way.



Catastrophic events, such as very large earthquakes and tsunamis, provide scientists with opportunities to gather much needed data that helps us further our scientific understanding. These events also keep us moving forward on improving the interrelationships of science and disaster management. My work over the years as a geologist working within the California Geological Survey has contributed to improving and providing better products for land-use planners, local building departments, and statewide/local levels of emergency management. In working in this realm, there are several resources and links that I would like to share that can be accessed for classroom use for examining real time or past tsunami events:

  • California’s Tsunami Inundation Maps: California’s populated coastline has been evaluated with respect to the worst likely events that could cause tsunamis along our coastline. Both distant as well as local earthquake sources were evaluated and modeled, and their cumulative tsunami effects are the basis these statewide inundation maps. Local communities use these maps to prepare their evacuation maps and response plans. The inundation lines on the maps represent the highest elevation a tsunami could reach at each location based on the worst case tsunami events. The newly launched (similar to, provides helpful information and step by step instructions on how to “Know Your Zone,” where students can enter a coastal address and find out if that location is within a tsunami inundation zone.
  • Tsunami Events: When a large earthquake occurs around the edges of the Pacific Ocean/Plate, both the U.S. Geological Survey and NOAA’s Tsunami Warning Centers immediately process the incoming seismic data and determine preliminary magnitudes. For the California coastline the National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC), formerly called the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center, will analyze the event, and release information statements. Students can follow these statements in real time during an actual event, or look at archived past events. NTWC statements will include information on whether a Warning, Advisory, or Watch has been issued, or a confirmation that no tsunami has been generated. As a tsunami moves away from its origin it leaves a signature on tidal gauges and deep ocean buoys that is used to analyze the size of the tsunami. Computer modeling of the event is reevaluated as the tsunami encounters additional tidal gauges and buoys in its path, allowing scientists to adjust the tsunami arrival times and wave height information for areas along the California coast.
  • Information Sheet on California Tsunamis and Tsunami Basics: This two sided information note covers what a tsunami is, what the warning signs are, and describes some of the tsunamis that have affected our coastline.
  • NOAA/NGDC Tsunami Runup database: This comprehensive database contains information on locations where tsunami effects have been observed. It is part of a world-wide searchable tsunami database. A U.S. west coast searchof the database provides historical tsunami information for past tsunami effects on California locations.
  • Tsunami Curriculum and Classroom Activities: A detailed compilation of tsunami classroom activities and educational resources.
  • Links to Tsunami Videos:

“Tsunamis: Know What to Do!” – View the Emmy Award winning animated video produced by the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services. (K-6).

“Tsunamis: Know What to Do!” (Spanish subtitled version, K-6).

U.S. Geological Survey tsunami preparedness videos to help Californians better understand the tsunami hazard for the state (6-12):

Tsunami Preparedness in Northern California Area

Tsunami Preparedness in Southern California

Tsunami Preparedness in Central California and the San Francisco Bay

Tsunami Preparedness along the West Coast, USA

Video: Lessons Save Lives: The story of Tilly Smith

Learn about an eleven-year-old school girl that was on vacation in Thailand with her family when the tsunami hit in December 2004. She recognized the signs of the receding sea and warned her parents of the impending tsunami. Her efforts saved the life of dozens of people. This story highlights the critical importance of tsunami education.

All of the links to these websites have much more to offer beyond what has been highlighted here. Tsunami science and emergency preparedness concepts have an important place in the earth systems, earth and human activity, as well as human sustainability concepts captured within NGSS. By sharing these various online resources, I hope the information and maps specific to California help to make these concepts even more engaging and relevant for all students. The “science” of emergency preparedness is important for all of us.

Cindy Pridmore is an Engineering Geologist at the California Geological Survey, and a member of CSTA


Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

One Response

  1. GREAT JOB CINDY. So important to prepare even though we hope it doesn’t happen.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.