Controversies in the Earth Sciences

A Tale of Two Tsunamis

tsunami hazard icon

26 December 2004 Sumatra-Andaman and 11 March 2011 Tohoku-Oki tsunamigenic earthquakes

We are going to work with some tsunami data from the 26 December 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and from the 11 March Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Before we do so, I want you to get a sense about the scientific community's study of those earthquakes, so I've picked a couple of articles that describe the techniques used to record the earthquakes and what we have learned so far.

Reading assignment

The following articles are all linked from Lesson 2 in Canvas or through the links provided.

As you read these articles, consider the following questions:
  • Where did these earthquakes happen? What was similar and different about the tectonic setting of each one?
  • How big were each of them in terms of length, area ruptured, and magnitude? In the time between these two earthquakes, were there any other earthquakes in the world about the same magnitude? Were there any other ones as destructive?
  • Why did these earthquakes produce such deadly tsunamis?
  • Where else on the globe are subduction zones like these two?

Check this out!

Interested in learning more? "Anatomy of a Tsunami" is an interactive flash movie from Teachers' Domain and Nova Online about the Sumatra-Andaman tsunami.


"Teacher's Domain" is a free resource, but you must register with them in order to view more than 7 resources. If you like their stuff you may want to take a moment to go ahead and register with them now.