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Course Description

An examination of the causes, effects, and options available to mitigate natural


disasters, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunami, landslides,
subsidence, flooding, severe weather, and meteorite impacts.

Follow the links below to material related to this course. New links will be added
and updated throughout the semester, so check back with this page often.
Click on the Topic of Interest Below
Course Announcements

Syllabus 3050

Syllabus 6050

Disaster Summary Information

Lecture Notes

Homework Exercises

Web Links

Announcements - Look here for announcements concerning this course


June 21, 2018 NASA reveals new plan to stop asteroids before they hit Earth

January 9, 2018

After exams, I post here in the announcement section some of the issues I found
while grading the exams. These comments may be helpful and you can find these old
announcements from previous semesters by clicking HERE.

January 23, 2018

Because of the freeze day last week, I have had to revise the syllabus. The links
above will now take you to the revised version of the Syllabus. Note that
assignment due dates and the midterm exam date have changed.
March 13, 2018

I have finished grading the midterm exam and I will pass it back in class today. To
see the distribution of scores and comments on the exam click HERE.

May 11, 2018

Final exams have been graded and scores have been posted to Canvas (look under
assignments). Grades have been posted to Gibson. If you want to see your final
exam or have any questions about your scores or grades, please feel free to come by
my office, Room 208 Blessey Hall, or you can send e-mail. It is probably best to
make an appointment, as I am in and out of my office now that the semester is over.

What truly is amazing is that many of the comments below are the same comments I
posted after the previous semester's final exam and have been posted on this web
site during the entire semester.

One good thing - Everyone in the class now knows that magmas do not come from the
liquid outer core of the Earth. So, I can now retire.

Here are some general comments on the exam:

Two primary goals that I have in this course are to provide information that will
help save your lives and to bust myths people have about historic events or the way
things operate. The bad thing about final exams are that they are final - people
don't know what they did wrong, and thus walk away believing things that are just
not true.

6 people still think that the levee breaches that occurred in New Orleans during
the Katrina event all happened the day after Katrina made landfall. This is
absolutely false. All levee breaches occurred on the same day that Katrina made
landfall (August 29, 2005). I am still puzzling over how I can get this myth out
of people's heads.

5 people still think that New Orleans flooded because the Mississippi River Levees
failed. All levees that failed in New Orleans were on human made navigation and
drainage canals.

Many of you still think that the amount of damage that an earthquake causes depends
on the time of day. The amount of casualties certainly does, but the damage will
be the same no matter when the earthquake occurs.

Although large earthquakes in China and floods in Bangladesh usually result in a


large number of casualties, an impact with a large space object (> 1 km) could
potentially kill everyone, and thus is the worst possible disaster we discussed in
the course.

7 people think that the eruption of cinder cone in a large city would be the worst
possible volcanic disaster. Cinder cones are small. What about eruptions from
volcanoes like Yellowstone or Long Valley?
New Orleans does not have anywhere near a 40% chance of getting hit by a Category 5
hurricane in any given year. Yes, it has a 40% chance of getting hit by a tropical
storm or hurricane, but CAT 5 storms are very rare.

The best evidence that global warming is occurring is that average global
temperatures have increased over the last 150 years. The evidence does not come
from metling ice or the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. The evidence
comes from measuring temperatures and this evidence cannot be disputed.

6 people still thing that we have a way to predict earthquakes before they occur.
This point was emphasized many times in class, in homework, and on the mideterm.

8 class members need to go back to kindergarten and relearn the alphabet. The
letter I, as in Isaac, is not the 5th letter of the alphabet, it is the 9th, and
thus Isaac was the 9th tropical storm or hurricane of 2012.

Life or Death Questions

Several questions on the final exam were designed to see if you learned some
valuable life or death lessons. The results are discouraging.

7 people died from the plinian volcanic eruption because they failed to realize
that the most dangerous aspect of such an eruption is pyroclastic flows not the
falling ash.

2 people died when the second wave of the tsunami hit because they thought that
tsunami came in single waves.

Only 1 person (still too many) died from the tsunami by calling the coast guard to
ask for a helicopeter rescue them off the California beach. Unfortunately, the
tsunami arrived and washed them out to sea before the helicopter arrived, much to
the horror of the rest of class who had climbed to the top of the hill to safely
get away from the tsunami.

9 people died (nearly half the class) from the Category 4 Hurricane as their beach
house, where they went for refuge, was destroyed by the storm surge from the
hurricane. The rest of the class evacuated away from the coast and survived.

1 death resulted from opening windows in the house during a hurricane under the
false assumption that it would relieve pressure, but instead resulted in furniture
crashing into their heads.

2 of you died from getting struck by lighting by running out in an open field to
protect yourself from lightning.

3 people died in a tropical cyclone (hurricane, typhoon, or cyclone) because they


thought that the wind was the most deadly aspect of such storms and failed to
consider the storm surge.

3 people died from the flash flood in the desert because they mistakenly thought
that flash floods don't occur in the desert.

That's 28 deaths in a course in which you were supposed to learn how of avoid
deaths by natural disasters. Some people died more than once, but I did not keep
track of those statistics. Hopefully those of you who potentially died in these
situations will read about your errors here before reality strikes.
Congratulations to those of you who are graduating, and best wishes for a great
summer to all.

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Lecture Notes

Note: Two versions of each set of lecture notes are shown in the table below. The
first is in html format, optimized for viewing on the Web. You can print this
version directly from your Web browser, but there is no guarantee that the pages
will break where they are supposed to, since each person's browser can be set up
differently (margins, fonts, font sizes, etc.).

The PDF (Portable Document Format) versions of the lecture notes are optimized for
printing. All page breaks should occur correctly. If your web browser has the
proper plug-in installed, clicking on the PDF will bring the file into your web
browser from which you can then print the notes. If the plug-ins are not
installed, your web browser will either attempt to download the PDF files or offer
to send you to the Adobe web site to download the plug-ins for your browser. If
you choose to download the PDF format lecture notes you will still need the free
Adobe Acrobat Reader to view and print the files. This and further information
about the browser plug-ins can be obtained by clicking on the icon bel