This term my Year 9 students have been following our newly amended earthquake scheme of work to incorporate GCSE cartographic and graphical skills.

During one of the lessons I decided to incorporate the concept of proportional circles by introducing them to the USGS Earthquake Hazards GISc platform which maps the distribution of earthquakes in relation to magnitude in real time.

During the lesson students were asked to use data of previous earthquakes between 2000-2016.

Students were asked to use this data to locate each earthquake and then draw a circle in relation to its magnitude. The end result being a paper version of a earthquake hazards distribution map, similar to the USGS.

How does it work?

This technique can be used a number of ways, but these are the instructions for this particular activity.

  1. Provide students with a map including a proportional circle key (available below), alongside a data sheet
  2. Students use the data to locate the country where the earthquake occurred on the map (Stretch and challenge: Use latitude and longitude coordinates)


3. Once the location has been found, students must use the key (the scale for this activity followed the Richter scale 0 to 10) to set the compass to the appropriate circle size.

This is done by placing the point of the compass on the number and the pencil on the diagonal line directly above the number i.e. 12 o’clock.

4. Now the compass is set, draw a circle around the location in order to show the magnitude of the earthquake.

Building on from this activity

The map could then be used for students to compare with the distribution of tectonic plate boundaries, in order to understand the most dangerous plate boundaries or even the most hazard prone areas/multiple hazard zones.

Alternatively students could analysis the distribution of each earthquake to suggest reasons for the distribution, or even compare earthquakes in the 2000 – 2016 to see if they have increased.

Access the proportional circle map template for FREE…. HERE!