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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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

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:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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