September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

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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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.