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Identifying Anomalies In P-Wave Arrival Times Using PEPP Data

A PEPP lesson plan developed during the 2001 IU Summer workshop
Written to Indiana State Science, English, and Mathematics Standards

Submitted by the following teachers:
Lowell Bailey, Bedford-North Lawrence High School
Bob Rollings, Floyd Central High School
Jeff Sayers, Northview High School
Gail Schwoebel, Arlington High School

Grades 10 - 12 Earth Science, Geology, Physics, or Integrated Physics/Chemistry


A student/class project using statistical analysis of PEPP data to identify possible anomalies in predicted and actual data arrival times along compass rose directions.

Students will track direction of earthquakes, compare predicted times of arrival with actual student picked arrival times and use a spreadsheet to analyze data in order to identify compass directions of possible structures which increase or decrease wave velocity, which in turn affect wave arrival times.

Materials needed:

Computer with Internet access
Archived PEPP data files from the Princeton PEPP web page
A spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel
SWAP software (or other software with similar functions)
     Links to download other software which may be used in this activity are provided in the LINKS
     section just below the activity.
Statistical methods and procedures (may have to be reviewed by the teacher in class)
Notebook to use as a journal


Variable depending on the scope of the project and student familiarity with picking P-wave arrival times and using spreadsheets. The greater the number of files used in the study, the longer the time needed to process the data. (How would this affect accuracy?) Minimum is about 5 class periods for data retrieval and data input into the spreadsheet. Analysis should take a minimum of 2 class periods. One to two class periods will be necessary if the student must first do the COPEPP P-Wave activity listed in the next section.


This is an inquiry based activity and intends to stimulate higher order thinking by having students do original research using data acquired by accessing an Internet database to compile, manipulate, and analyze data and locate possible anomalies in the structure of the Earth. This exercise is an attempt to make research more personal to the student and not just a word they say and will never actually do.

Special emphasis has been placed on using PEPP data since participants either have their own recording station or access to a station close to their location; other data sources/stations such as IRIS may be used at the discretion of the instructor, and it is suggested to specifically try IRIS in order to get data from historical earthquakes due to the relative brevity of PEPP data. Acquisition and manipulation of IRIS data requires knowledge beyond what is discussed on this web page, although it's use is by no means out of the question; It is only different. Future updates may delineate the procedure.

For an activity to develop necessary skills to accurately determine P-wave arrival times, the teacher may wish to have students do the P-Wave activity (Activity 3) on the following web site. Other exercises are listed there which the teacher may choose to require students to complete in addition to Activity 3.

 COPEPP Rocky Mountain High School P-Wave picking exercise


1. In order to retrieve old data sets from PEPP files go to the Princeton web site ýPEPPSN Earthquake Databaseţ at the following URL:
Once you are on the page, select a year.

2. Select an event. Once an event has been selected by clicking on the appropriate link, a list of PEPP stations for which data was sent will be shown. The event chosen MUST be in the general direction (within the compass rose) chosen for study by the teacher or student.

3. Choose various stations in the direction you want to explore from the available stations for the selected event.

4. At the page bottom double-click on Arrival Time Information for this event, and you will be given the predicted P-wave arrival time for the selected event.
     4a. A different method of getting arrival time information is to click on the link for ýStation information computed by SYCLOPS for this eventţ listed undet the heading "For More Information" located just below the data request box which brings up the SYCLOPS generated information for all stations which sent data files, then print the page. The latter method might make data input into the spreadsheet easier.

5. Once the data has been retrieved, insert the data into a spreadsheet and identify whether the
      actual P-wave arrival is before, after, or is the same as the predicted P-Wave time of arrival.

6. Analyze differences and brainstorm possible reasons for any discrepancies.

7. Write a lab report utilizing and including data to support any conclusions and summarizing
       limitations of the study.

8. Present study to the class.


Assessment can be done in a number of ways. Inclusion of several methods of assessment is suggested. Recommendations are, since this IS an inquiry based activity, that emphasis is placed on the written lab report, journal, and class presentation. Set up a rubric with which you are comfortable before the activity and give it to the students. If you have a specific format for the report, give students a copy of an example. They will then have a tool to use as a guide for the activity, and one by which to judge their progress. Both teacher and students should be a part of the assessment process. Students could use a rubric which has been set up for the class report part of the exercise to judge reports by their peers. Testing over basic principles and methodology is suggested; specific data sets or results should not be part of test material. Lab reports could be passed on to English teachers to be graded for structure and/or to Math teachers to check math processes and techniques if needed.
If the exercise is used as an individual research project, it might prove useful to have an expert in the field review the preliminary report and make suggestions. Revisions could then be made and a final report then turned in within a time frame set by the teacher. Making the connection to outside experts could also lead to further ideas for research projects.

Ideas, suggestions, and afterthoughts

Other software programs, such as Winquake and a few others, can generate results which can be used to check or verify results, or can be used instead of SWAP. Each program has its own positives and negatives in terms of what it will and will not do. Try them and see which program you or the students feel is most useful.

The teacher may choose to divide compass directions between groups of students; this also means students must determine the compass direction of each quake to assure correct data sets are used.
The teacher may also decide to set this activity up as an independent research project or as a science fair project.

Another option would be to download stations other than PEPP stations; this would allow both teachers and students greater flexibility in research.

Most PEPP seismometers record only the Z axis; how will this affect observable waveforms? What waveforms will or will not be seen? They also have limitations; specifications can be found on the  Guralp PEPP instrument web page.

This page is considered by the authors to be a work in progress and should not become a dead link. There will be updates and revisions from time to time.

One last note; this study can and should logically lead to many other student projects and can have many variations of the procedures described above. Any new ideas or new takes on old ideas are gladly accepted and will be acknowledged.

Extremely Useful Links:

Princeton PEPP home page                                                                Indiana PEPP home page

PEPP Seismogram Archive                                                                 Colorado PEPP Activities

Humor! (Possibly useful)
Geology Cartoons from Lite Geology

PEPP Software Links

Go to the PEPP Software Page 

SWAP One program used in this exercise.

  Carolina Earthquake Explorer    Click on the link that says "You need to install java web start
  please go to....." That will install the Java webstart program. After the Java webstart program is
  installed, go back to the above link and the java link should be replaced with a program link to
  CEE if you installed java webstart correctly.

  Seismic Eruption The link to download is within the page.

 The PEPP program is supported by the following:

Indiana University - PEPP Home page

Click on the images to go to the home pages of these organizations.

Indiana State Science Standards Lesson Correlation

Both Earth/Space Science and Physics Supporting Themes
Nature of Science and Technology
    Scientific investigation through inquiries, fieldwork, lab work
    Students experiment, observe, and formulate theories based on evidence
Scientific Thinking
    Mathematical and logic skills, oral and written communication
Mathematical World
    Thinking that involves building and applying logically connected ideas
    Students solve problems, make decisions, understand the world around them
Common Themes
    Systems, models, constancy, change, the role of change over time

Earth and Space Science Standards
    ES 1.23 Explain motions and transformations in the EarthÝs lithosphere and interior.
    ES 1.24 Plate tectonics:  include evidence that supports the movement of plates.
    ES 1.28 Discuss geologic evidenceÍ in relation to the EarthÝs past.
    ES 1.29 Recognize and explain that in geologic change, the present arises from the materials of
                    the past and in ways that can be explained according to physical laws.

Physics Standards
   P 1.2   Measure/determine physical quantities.
   P 1.5   Use appropriate vector/scalar quantities.
   P 1.22 Describe waves in terms of their fundamental characteristics.
   P 1.23 Use the principle of superposition to describe interference.
   P 1.24 Use concepts of reflection, refractionÍ transmission Í to predict the motion of waves
                through matter.

Indiana State English/Language Arts Standards Lesson Correlation

10th Grade
Standard 1 Reading:  Word recognition, Fluency, and vocabulary development
     Vocabulary and concept development:  Understand technical vocabulary in subject area reading.
Standard 2 Reading:  Reading comprehension
 Comprehension and Analysis of Grade-Level-Appropriate Text:  Demonstrate use of sophisticated
 technology by following technical directions
Standard 4 Writing:  Writing Process
 Research and Technology
Standard  5 Writing:  Writing Applications (different types of writing and their characteristics)
Write technical document (lab report)
Standard 6 Writing:  Written English Language Conventions
Grammar and Mechanics of Writing
Standard 7 Listening and Speaking:  Listening and Speaking Skills, Strategies, and Applications
Speaking Applications

11th Grade
Standard 4 Writing:  Writing Process
Research and Technology
Develop presentations by using clear research questions and creative and critical research strategies,
such as field studies, oral histories, interviews, experiments, and Internet sources.
Use a computer to integrate databases, pictures and graphics, and spreadsheets into word-processed documents.
Standard 5   Writing: Writing Applications (Different Types of Writing and Their Characteristics)
Use varied and extended vocabulary, appropriate for specific forms and topics.
Use precise technical or scientific language when appropriate for topic and audience.
Standard 6 Writing:  Written English Language Conventions
Standard English Conventions
Standard 7 Listening and Speaking:  Listening and Speaking Skills, Strategies, and Applications
Speaking Applications

12th Grade
Standard 2 Reading:  Reading Comprehension
Structural Features of Informational and Technical Materials
Standard 4 Writing:  Writing Process
Research and Technology
Standard 5 Writing: Writing Applications (Different Types of Writing and Their Characteristics)
Use precise technical or scientific language when appropriate for topic and audience.

Indiana State Mathematics Standards Lesson Correlation

Learning Skills Throughout All Mathematics Courses

The ability to read, write, listen, ask questions, think, and communicate about math will deepen studentsÝ understanding of mathematical concepts.  Students should read text, data, tables, and graphs with comprehension and understanding.  Their writing should be detailed and coherent, and they should use correct mathematical vocabulary.  Students should write to ex[lain answers, justify mathematical reasoning, and describe problem-solving strategies.
The language of mathematics is expressed in words, symbols, formulas, equasions, graphs, and data displays.  The concepst of one-fourth may be described as a quarter, ¼, one divided by four, 0.25, 1/8 + 1/8, twenty-five percent, or an appropriately shaded portion of a pie graph.  Higher-level mathematics involves the use of more powerful representations:  exponents, logarithms, p, unknowns, statistical representation, algebraic and geometric expressions.  Mathematical operations are expressed as representations:  +, =, divide, square.  Representations are dynamic tools for solving problems and communicating and expressing mathematical ideas and concepts.
 Connecting mathematical concepts includes linking new ideas to related ideas learned previously, helping students to see mathematics as a unified body of knowledge whose concepts build upon each other.  Major emphasis should be given to ideas and cincepts across mathematical content areas that help students see that mathematics is a web of closely connected ideas (algebra, geometry, the entire number system).  Mathematics is also the common language of many other disciplines (science, technology, finance, social science, geography) and students should learn mathematical concepts used in those disciplines.  Finally, students should connect their mathematical learning to appropriate real-world contexts.

Algebra I
Standard 1
 Operations with real numbers.
Standard 2
 Linear Equations and Inequalities.
Standard 3
 Relations and Functions
Standard 4
 Graphing Linear Equations and Inequalities.
Standard 9
 Mathematical Reasoning and Problem Solving

Algebra II
Standard 1
 Relations and Functions
Standard 7
 Logarithmitic and Exponential Functions.
Standard 9
 Counting Principles and Probability
Standard 10
 Mathematical Reasoning and Problem Solving.

Discrete Math
Standard 1
Counting Techniques
Standard 3
Standard 4
Graph Theory

Standard 1
Points, Lines, Angles, and Planes
Standard 6
Standard 8
Mathematical reasoning
Problem Solving

Standard 1
Relations and functions
Standard 2
Logarithmic and Exponential functions
Standard 8
Data analysis
Standard 9
Mathematical reasoning
Problem Solving

Probability and Statistics
Standard 1
Descriptive Statistics
Standard 2
Standard 4
Mathematical reasoning
Problem Solving

Terms of use: All information found on this web page is meant for free use in the classroom. Intellectual property in part or whole remains in ownership by the authors. Links to this web site are encouraged. See below! Page content may not be used on other web sites or published in any format without the expressed permission of the page authors and must be acknowledged. Contact information can be found by clicking on any of the names at the beginning of this web page and can also be found below. Contact information for pages accessed by links from this page can be found on their appropriate web sites.

LINKS! If you would like to link to this web page, permission will generally be granted with one requirement: E-mail one of the authors and let us know if or how you are using this activity in the classroom, with comments. In other words, we would like feedback about the activity. Please write us!!!! 

Lowell Bailey, Bedford-North Lawrence High School
Bob Rollings, Floyd Central High School
Jeff Sayers, Northview High School
Gail Schwoebel, Arlington High School

©2001 Lowell Bailey, Bob Rollings, Jeff Sayers, and Gail Schwoebel.

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