Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society

Module 7 Lab: Discussion


Module 7 Lab: Discussion

In this lab, we will have a guided discussion about the impact of the March 11, 2011 tsunami on the landscape of northern Japan. We will do this by observing historical imagery on Google Earth and looking closely at images from before and after the tsunami. This is a great opportunity to study the extent and severity of the damage by the tsunami because there are many images from before and after the tsunami struck, the resolution is excellent, and there is only moderate cloud cover, so you can avoid it easily.

The goal of your observation is to determine what features you can use, both natural and human-made to determine: (a) how far inland the tsunami traveled in two different regions, and (b) how severe the damage was. As in Module 1, what I am looking for is original, thoughtful input as well as engagement in discussing other students’ ideas. First I will describe what you will need to do in Google Earth and then how you will input your ideas in the Discussion Forum.

Google Earth Observations

Open Google Earth and enter one or more of the following names in the search field:

1A. Minamisoma, Fukushima, Japan

1B. Iwaki, Fukushima, Japan

2A. Watari, Miyagi, Japan

2B. Miyagi, Japan

We will be looking at the two regions, between Minamisoma and Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture, and between Watari and Miyagi in Miyagi Prefecture.

We will be looking at features in these two locations and comparing them. I recommend you start observing at an elevation of 15,000 feet (4.5 km) but be ready to zoom in closer when you see something interesting. Next, turn on the historical imagery button on the upper toolbar (the clock). Look closely at images before 3/11/2011 and after. There are numerous images of the days after the tsunami struck, and you may need to look at several days to avoid clouds, breaks in image, and darkness. It’s also easiest to start near the coast and move inland. Look at natural features as well as structures and vehicles, and notice changes between pre and post-tsunami images.


  1. Use Word or another text editor to respond to the prompt with your thoughts backed up with locations from Google Earth (Lat. Long coordinates and elevation - record as best as you can). The length of your response should be between 150 and 200 words. Your response must have a minimum of two locations in each of the two prefectures (a total of four locations) and discuss the features you see that tell you whether an area was inundated or not. You must choose both natural features (i.e. vegetation) and human-made features (i.e. houses). We recommend typing your response in Word or another text editor and then copying/pasting it to the discussion forum to avoid losing your work midstream in the event of an accidental browser closing, intermittent Internet connectivity, etc.).
  2. Go to Module 7 Lab (Discussion) and type or copy/paste your response to the prompt into the text box marked 'reply' and select Post Reply by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday to allow time for responses. Your response is now visible to your classmates and your instructor.
  3. Read through others’ responses and write a thoughtful reply to at least two other students by the date listed on the calendar. These replies should be either a rebuttal in which you add your ideas in the form of a persuasive argument (written with respect for the originating author), or a response that agrees with, supports, and builds upon the original response. Because a timely response to the conversation is part of your grade, subscribing to the forum is required. Check in to the discussion forum often throughout the week to post and respond to comments. Your response to at least one other classmate should be posted by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday to allow for authentic discussion to occur.


The grading rubric will help you understand what constitutes an appropriate level of participation on your part. The instructor reserves the right to not award any credit (including points for timing and interaction) if the content of the posts, however on-time they may be, are off-topic, offensive, or otherwise inappropriate. Such posts may be deleted at any time by the instructor as well.

Grade Rubric
Content Addresses all facets of the assigned discussion prompt, with accurate supporting detail where necessary. A response post is at least 200 words of substantive content addressing the prompt. To earn full credit in this category, your comments and replies to classmates must demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the topic and go well beyond, "I agree with you." While a discussion forum has an informal tone, please refrain from foul or offensive language, texting abbreviations, etc. 4 Points
Formatting and Mechanics Posts should be appropriately complemented with exact coordinates that show relevant features. Specifically, features that suggest recent tsunami inundation (and others that suggest the land remained dry). You need to show examples of natural and human-made structures to get full credit. It is key that your first post shows original locations that are different from ones suggested by your classmates (it will be hard to avoid some overlap by chance, but plagiarized entries will lose credit). 4 points
Timing This assignment is deliberately structured to allow you to participate throughout the week. Your initial response to the statement should be shared by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday and your response to at least one other classmate by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday to allow for authentic discussion to occur. 2 points