Teaching about New Madrid Earthquakes: Science and Hazards

Powerpoint files of lectures, including class activities,
developed for Illinois Earthscope teachers’ workshop
February 12-13, 2011 at Illinois State University, organized by R. Nelson.

These lectures are based on

Disaster Deferred: How New Science is Changing Our View of Earthquake Hazards in the Midwest 
by S. Stein (Columbia University Press, 2010)


Introduction to Seismology, Earthquakes, and Earth Structure
by S. Stein and M. Wysession (Blackwell Publishing, 2003).

Topic 1: Introduction (ppt, pdf)

Activity 1.1: Did you feel it?
Activity 1.2: New Madrid versus California

Topic 2: The 1811-1812 earthquakes (pptpdf)

Activity 2.1: If the 1811 earthquake happened today
Activity 2.2: Fault parameters, seismic moment and magnitude

Topic 3: Disasters, pseudodisasters, and critical thinking (pptpdf)

Activity 3.1: Disaster preparation
Activity 3.2: Duct tape response
Activity 3.3: Common concerns
Activity 3.4: Critical thinking

Topic 4: How the ground shakes (ppt, pdf)

Activity 4.1: Seismic wave speeds

Topic 5: How earthquakes work (ppt, pdf)

Activity 5.1: GPS clock
Activity 5.2: GPS across the San Andreas
Activity 5.3: Long term slip and earthquake recurrence on the San Andreas
Activity 5.4: Time between earthquakes from paleoseosmology
Activity 5.5: Earthquake prediction

Topic 6: Earthquakes that shouldn’t happen (ppt, pdf)

Activity 6.1: Wilson cycle
Activity 6.2: Midcontinent Rift

Topic 7: What’s going on at New Madrid? (pptpdf)

Activity 7.1: Mystery box
Activity 7.2: Why New Madrid?

Topic 8: Faults switching on and off (ppt, pdf)

Activity 8.1: Booby-trap
Activity 8.2: Complex systems

Topic 9: As dangerous as California? (ppt, pdf)

Activity 9.1: Fermi estimation
Activity 9.2: Time-independent or time-dependent probability

Topic 10: What to do? (ppt, pdf)

Activity 10.1: Assessing hazards and mitigation measures
Activity 10.2: Talking to your students


A paper explaining how to use “Booby-Trap” in class

Estimating the probability of large earthquakes in the New Madrid Seismic Zone

Leonard Nimoy predicts doom as Y2K approaches

Whack-a-mole, an analogy for hazard assessment for migrating earthquakes

Boobytrap, an analogy for interacting faults

Simple slider block model for stick-slip


How non-ductile concrete buildings collapse (USGS)

Benefits of retrofitting non-ductile concrete buildings (USGS)

2004 Sumatra earthquake tsunami propagation

2004 Sumatra earthquake tsunami at Banda Aceh

2001 Nisqually (Seattle) earthquake damage

FEMA’s Midwest earthquake shakeout