September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 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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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.