Case Study #1

My case study is being done on the March 27th 1964 earthquake in southern Alaska. The epicenter was a depth of 25km and was located roughly halfway between Anchorage and Valdez. This earthquake occurred on a reverse thrust fault on a divergent boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. The most interesting thing I have learned so far is that this earthquake was on a reverse thrust fault, when normally in that kind of situation it should have been a normal fault.

Case Study 1

My first case study is the 1964 earthquake lasted 4 minutes and was a 9.2 moment magnitude, the most powerful in US history. It happened on the Pacific-North American plate boundary where the Pacific Plate subducts beneath the North American Plate. The Pacific Plate got stuck and then lurched free causing major tectonic uplift (11.5m) and subsidence (2.5m). This huge shift caused large tsunamis to cause massive property damage in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and California. It even reached Hawaii and Japan. It was amazing that there were so few fatalities in Alaska (131); I am very interested to know what the effect this magnitude of earthquake would have on Anchorage today.


For the case study, I choose to talk about earthquakes and avalanche.

After I did seismic research for 3 years, I found some interesting topics not a lot of people talk about it. Most people like to focus on the mega magnitude earthquakes, but depend on where the earthquakes happened a small magnitude earthquake happening in a relevant flat area could cause large damage than the same magnitude earthquake happening in the mountains area. I choose the 2011 Magnitude 5.8 Virginia earthquake to study. It’s hard to think about a magnitude 5.8 earthquake that can cause some series damage, but this earthquake destroyed 7 houses and caused major damage to 120 houses. It also caused damage to the Washington Monument. People in Canada and Florida also felt this earthquake.

USGS Seismic Shaking Map showing similar magnitude earthquake happening on the east coast and west coast


The other topic I choose is the one I hate the most- avalanche. This one hurts the mountain community a lot every year. People plays in their happy place, but avalanche just takes lives in those happy place. This year when I was at home in the Canadian Rocky Mountain town Canmore, we lost a young loving family doctor. She was a friend of my friend. We were having dinner that day and heard this heart breaking news. Avalanche Canada keeps a good incidents report with snow data report. This heart breaking incident happened on January 10th at Mt. Hector north of Lake Louise. The avalanche was 80 meters wide and 550 meters long debris. It ran on a weak layer of facets and depth hoar near the base of the snowpack. I want to study this one to understand the avalanche better. My question is does the depth hoar near the base always cause avalanche? At what angle slope we need to pay attention of the near base depth hoar?

My learning goals for the earthquakes and avalanche hazard are:

  1. Getting to know the cause of this specific hazard case I chose
  2. Finding out the weather data for avalanche
  3. Finding out the building code difference for the east coast and west coast. It is surprise to see so many houses damaged on the east coast with a magnitude 5.8 earthquake.
  4. Listing the things people should do to prevent damage in such hazard case

Week 4: Case Studies

The first hazard I am going to do my case studies on is earthquakes. I have chosen the Great San Francisco Earthquake, which occurred in San Francisco, California in 1906 on a Wednesday morning.  The second hazard I’ve chosen is the the eruption of Nevado Del Ruiz, the highest active volcano in the Andes Mountains in Columbia on November 13, 1985. I’ve chosen these two events because I know a bit about the San Francisco earthquake only in the reference of the fire it caused, but I would love to go deeper into the earthquake itself. I chose the Nevado del Ruiz eruption because I love volcanoes but have never heard of this event. Some of the learning goals I have are that I hope to learn more about the science of earthquakes and volcanoes in general, how governments responded to the event (in terms of emergency management) and what kind of planning, preparations, and other things have changed since these events/what was learned.

Unit 4

I have chosen to study Earthquakes and Volcanoes. Specifically I have chosen to study the Tohoku Earthquake which occurred March 11, 2011 off the coast of Japan. I chose this event for a few reasons, the main one being I remember where I was when I heard about the earthquake. Another reason is the massive consequences of the earthquake, such as a large tsunami and a near nuclear disaster.

Learning Goals:

  1. Are we getting closer to being able to predict large events such as these?
  2. What can we do to prepare and protect ourselves?
  3. What what affect does an event like this have on the surrounding ocean?

For volcanoes, I will be studying the March 2009 eruption of Mt. Redoubt. I have chosen this event for a few reasons. First, This event took place during my first visit to Alaska as a kid, so I have a little bit of a personal connection to the event. Second, In high school we studied the impacts of this event a bit in my Alaska Studies class, so I would like to go a bit deeper into the event.

Things I would Like to learn

  1. Is there a way for us to preemptively tell if a volcano is about to erupt?
  2. If a volcano in a region erupts, does that mean other volcanoes in the region are more or less likely to erupt?
  3. What are the criteria for a volcano to be considered extinct, dormant, or active?

Unit 4: Case Studies

My first study is The Great Lisbon Earthquake. The Great Lisbon Earthquake happened on November 1, 1755. Lisbon, Portugal was devastated by this earthquake. Seismologists today estimate that the earthquake was in the 8.5-9.0 magnitude range.

My 3 Learning Goals are:

  1. What was the epicenter of this earthquake and how large of an area was effected by the earthquake.
  2. What economic and political ramifications occurred as result of the earthquake.
  3. How large was the resulting tsunami and how much destruction did it cause.


My second case study is on the Big Thompson Flood. The Big Thompson Flood of 1976 occurred in the Big Thompson Canyon in Northern Colorado between Fort Collins and Estes Park. It was the deadliest flash flood in recorded Colorado history. This event interests me because my parents lived in Fort Collins just a few miles away when the flood occurred. The river which averages about 18 inches in depth roared into a 20 foot high wall of water taking 143 lives.


My 3 learning Goals are:

  1. What weather conditions occurred that caused such an enormous flash flood.
  2. What safety precautions have been taken in the Big Thompson Canyon to prevent another destructive flash flood.
  3. Did the bed rock and geology in the area contribute to the conditions causing such a large flash flood.

Tohoku Earthquake and Mount St. Helens Eruption

I have chosen to study earthquakes and volcanoes. For earthquakes, I will be researching the Tohoku earthquake, which occurred on March 11, 2011 in Japan. I chose this event because it was a megathrust earthquake that had catastrophic results, including a tsunami that caused radioactive waste to be dumped into the ocean after the Fukushima power plant was impacted. Interestingly, Japan is one of the most earthquake-prepared countries, but the innovative infrastructure and forecasting was no match for a 9.0+ magnitude earthquake and subsequent aftershocks to hit.

Earthquake learning goals:

  1. What processes are in place to predict earthquakes?
  2. What innovations in infrastructure can be used to protect against earthquakes?
  3. Are there new minerals being produced along fault/plate boundaries when earthquakes occur?

For volcanoes, I will be studying the Mount St. Helens eruption that occurred on May 18, 1980 in Washington state. I chose this event for a few reasons. I lived in WA for a couple years and climbed Mount St. Helens in the early spring one year, and I would like to learn more about what I encountered on the trail. The North Cascades are part of a volcanic arc that has been formed due to of the subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate (oceanic lithosphere) under the North American plate (continental lithosphere). With such majestic stratovolcanoes (composite) comes explosive eruptions. I would like to better understand the processes of subduction and the eruption patterns of these types of volcanoes.

On a side note, WA is due for a megathrust earthquake once the Juan de Fuca plate decides to become unhinged and subduct further. A megathrust earthquake is what hit Japan in 2011, and WA is nowhere near prepared for the destruction that could occur, potentially in this lifetime.

Volcano learning goals:

  1. What processes are in place to predict eruptions?
  2. How does the eruption of a volcano in a volcanic arc affect the other volcanoes?
  3. What is the “lifespan” that a volcano can have? Does it depend on the type of volcano?

Unit 4: Case Study 1

My first case study is the 1964 Alaskan Earthquake. It happened on March 27th and had a 9.2 moment magnitude. It also caused tsunamis that were devastating to coastal towns. I want to learn more about it because my mom lived through it and earthquakes fascinate me.

3 learning goals

  1. What was the cause of the earthquake?
  2. What was the damage like in different Alaskan cities?
  3. What would happen now in the cities if this were to happen again?

My second case study is the 1999 Oklahoma Tornado Outbreak. The event started on May 2nd and lasted 7 days. It caused record-breaking wind speeds of 302 ± 22 mph and hail 4.5 inches in diameter. The event included 154 tornado touchdowns. I chose this topic because I know barely anything about tornados and this was a huge event.

3 learning goals

  1. How long do tornados last and where can they happen?
  2. What weather conditions cause a tornado?
  3. What was special about the conditions of May 1999 to cause so many tornadoes and record breaking wind?

My 2 Case studies

Hazard #1- Flooding

  • 2013 Alberta Flood
  • This flood occurred June 19th 2013, when torrential rain fall hit western Alberta with rainfall averaging 75 to 150 mm in just two and a half days.
  • I started to look into this flood because I lived through it and experienced this major event. I did a few searches to see if there was enough data to really study what occurred to trigger this disaster.
  • I am looking forward to learning: 1) What factors caused this event? 2) Have there been any similar events in the past? 3) Are events like this more likely to occur with climate change?

Hazard #2- Earthquake

  • 2002 Alaska 7.9 earthquake along the Denali fault
  • This event occurred November 3rd, 2002 90 miles south of Fairbanks. This was the strongest earthquake ever recorded in the interior of Alaska. This earthquake ruptured the earths surface for 209 miles.
  • I chose this event because I have been very intrigued by earthquakes. I have read about this earthquake quite a few times and I would like to look into this event more to understand what occurred. I think that it’s interesting how such a large earthquake caused such little damage.
  • I am hoping to learn: 1) What effects did this have on the fault? 2) Was there any significant effects on people living in the area? 3) Why did such a large earthquake cause such little damage?