Material Detail

"Virtual Earthquake" icon

Virtual Earthquake

Virtual Earthquake is an interactive Web-based activity designed to introduce you to the concepts of how an earthquake epicenter is located and how the Richter magnitude of an earthquake is determined. This is the old version. A newer simulation called Earthquake is now available.



More about this material


Disciplines with similar materials as Virtual Earthquake


Log in to participate in the discussions or sign up if you are not already a MERLOT member.
Sarah Barnes
Sarah Barnes (Teacher (K-12))
7 years ago

1. Quality of Content: Content in the site does a great job of being user friendly and clearly demonstrates the major topics related to earthquakes.

2. Effectiveness as a teaching tool: This tool would be used as a demonstration of the curriculum/ exploration of the problem. After using the site, students should be able to understand how to find the epicenter of an earthquake.

3. Ease of Use: The site does a good job of giving the instructor a step by step demo of how to use the material. The site has directions on each page and easy to use buttons to navigate from one step to another.


Time spent reviewing site: 30 min.
Robert Barry
Robert Barry (Student)
12 years ago
I found that when going over this concept with students that it is nice to have something they can see like this to reinforce the ideas.
Sheryl Stohs, PhD
Sheryl Stohs, PhD (Faculty)
12 years ago
This awas a great tool for lab exercises on the study of earthquakes. My students use a lab manual that directed them to perform the same type of calculations for S-P Lab Time and location of Epicenter exercises. The virtual earthquake was better. Students had formulated questions for collaborative Emergency Preparedness scenario. The computations from the two exercises were used to address those questions as sub-committee members on a larger team. Many students used this along with google earth to specifically identify locations affected by the simulated earthquake. The only problems that we encountered were that the system locked up on students, and myinstructor's podium, and basically crashed my computer. Fortunately we had saved our work and were able to recover where we left off. Considereing this happened on two different computers we figured that it was the program and not our computers. But all in out it was one of the most exciting labs the students had, which increased thier understanding of seismic waves, amplitude, magnitude, location, distance and impact of the earthquake on urbanization. Exercises were completed in 1.5 hours (max 3 hours time)with full write up, research in addition to journals. Thank you for this presentation and much needed virtual exercise.

Technical Remarks:

Computer crashes may have been caused to an overload of our systems with the data. Wonder if others have experienced this same thing. We we using PC with XP, P4 system. Not sure how fast the enhancments are but usually on the college systems they are pretty fast.
Used in course? Yes
Glen White
Glen White (Faculty)
15 years ago
I've spent about 30 minutes so far going through the materials, testing the
various features of the site, and thoroughly enjoying the experience. The
graphical presentations clearly illustrate the procedures being explored, and
the depth and accuracy of the material is impressive. For demonstrating the
methods and tools of measurement for seismology, this is by far superior to any
text I've reviewed. The hands-on use of the interactive graphics should greatly
add to its potential effectiveness as a teaching and learning tool.

Technical Remarks:

While some of the graphics take some time to load, a helper window typically
opens up to explain the next component of the module. Correct responses are
required at several points in order to continue, but using the demonstration
button, an instructor can quickly review the site.
Michael Rocco  Jr.
Michael Rocco Jr. (Faculty)
16 years ago
I have used Virtual Earthquake in my classroom for the past four years and I
have found that the students enjoy working online and completing all of the
tasks to get their very own certificate. The content is appropriate for the
earth science curriculum. I use the activity as a culminating review of finding
epicenters to earthquakes after going over lag time, magnitude, etc. I have
found that the software is very user-friendly.
Mark Peebles
Mark Peebles (Faculty)
17 years ago
I have used this site as a class project in the past but lost the link. I was
very happy to see that it has been put back on the web. It is a very excellent
demonstration of seismology. Students calculate the distance to the epicenter of
an earthquake plus estimate the magnitude by measuring information from
simplified seismograms of actual earthquakes. This exercise gives the student a
much better grasp of seismic data and how it relates to earthquakes. The site
can easily be finshed in an hour and it is very easy to use. Grading is
simplified as the student can print a "Virtual Seismologist" certificate which
includes all of the data they measured along with their success rate.

Technical Remarks:

The site is cleaner and seems to work more smoothly than when I first used it
several years ago.