Geology 303                                            Natural Disasters                                      Spring 2013

Instructor: Kevin Marty, Office at IVC (room 2776 science bldg)

Website:  Email:

Phone: 760-355-5761 (office #)             Hours/Day: Thursdays 5:30-8:10 pm

Class Text Book: Natural Disasters, 8th edition, P.L. Abbott 

Description of this Course:

Natural hazards are caused by geological phenomena over which we have little or no control, and can dramatically affect life on Earth.  This course will look at current scientific theories in geology, geophysics, meteorology, climatology, and oceanography which explain the causes of earthquakes, volcanoes, severe storms, floods, droughts, landslides, forest fires, etc. We will examine the organizational structures that humans have created to cope with natural disasters--systems to predict and warn, to mitigate, and to repair damage. Finally, we will examine global changes caused or exacerbated by human population growth.

Day: 2012

Lecture Coverage

Test/Quiz/Assignment Due Dates

Jan 17 Get your book!  We will use the book extensively in this course.

Introduction to course/syllabus

Main Themes of this Course: 1.Energy sources underlying disasters; 2. Plate tectonics and climate change; 3. Earth processes operating in rock, water and atmosphere;4. Significance of geologic time; 5. Complexities of multiple variables operating simultaneously; 6. Detailed and readable case histories.

...keep in mind, there is a difference between natural hazards and natural disasters...if it weren't for humans, there would be no natural disasters!

Assign: Read Study Guide (handout covering some concepts of Chapter 1) and Chapter 2 (Abbott); (no lecture over chapter 1, but you will be TESTED over the study guide information under the link above next Thursday-a 10 point quiz)

Assignment 1: Finding Disaster Information on the Internet; due on Feb 28 beginning of class; this assignment will aid you in completing your natural disaster tracker assignment

Assignment 2: Natural Disaster Tracker (current events paper)click on the link to view this paper that is due during our second to last meeting of the semester on May 2

Study Guide For Three Tests This Semester (below are two links):

Essay for all tests

Terms/Concepts/People/Case Hist for test 1



Jan 24

Quiz over Study Guide (see link above)

Discuss:  Chapter 2  (Internal Energy and Plate Tectonics)

Assign: Read Chapter 3.

QUIZ 1 over Study Guide


Jan 31

Discuss:  Chapter 3 (Earthquake Geology and Seismology)

Test Question Examples



Feb 7

Discuss: Chapter 4 (Plate Tectonics and Earthquakes)

Assign: Read Chapter 8


Feb 14


Discuss: Chapter 8 (Tsunami versus Wind-Caused Waves)



Feb 21

TEST 1 over Chapter's 2,3,4 and 8

Assign: Read Chapter 6



Feb 28

Assignment 1 Due (25 points)

Discuss: Chapter 6 (Volcanic Eruptions: Plate Tectonics and Magmas)

Assign: Read Chapter 16.

Assignment 1 Due (25 points)

Mar 7

Discuss: Chapter 7 (Volcano Case Histories: Killer Events)



Mar 14

Discuss: Chapter 16 (Impacts with Space Objects)



Mar 21

Discuss: Chapter 14 (Fire)



Mar 28 TEST 2 over Chapter's 6, 7, 16 and 14

Assign: Read Chapter 9

Apr 4 (Spring Break-no class) no class no class
April 11

Discuss: Chapter 9 (External Energy Fuels Weather and Climate

Assign: Read Chapter 10


Apr 18

Discuss: Chapter 10 (Tornadoes, Lightning, Heat and Cold)

Assign: Read Chapter 11


Apr 25

Discuss: Chapter 11 (Hurricanes)

Assign: Read Chapter 12.


May 2


Assignment 2 Due; Natural Disaster Tracker (40 points)  

Discuss: Chapter 12 (Climate Change)



***Assignment 2 Due (40 points)


May 9 (final's)

TEST 3 over Chapter's 9. 10, 11 and 12


Animations:Tidal Forces   Isostasy and Mountain Belts     Isostatic Adjustment  Birth of the Moon    Solar System Formation EarthSunSeasons seasons2 EarthSunTidalPull solar intensity tidal bulge History of Earth lunar phases Global warming

Animations: Continental Collision   Convergence (subduction)Divergence (mid oceanic ridge)Evolution of Divergent Boundary (continental rift) Seafloor Spreading (convection model with ocean-cont and ocean-ocean subduction zones)      Hot Spots (Hawaii for example)Magnetic Stripes,                    Origin Magnetic Stripes  Mantle Convection  Mantle Plumes (in continental crust)Ocean-Continent, Ocean-Ocean, Pangea Breakup, Sea Floor Age

Animations:Fault Types, Focus Determining Location             Minor Canyon Normal Faults, ReverseFaults  Particle Motion     P-wave, S-wave  Seismic Refraction  Seismograph (horizontal), Seismograph (vertical) Elastic Rebound Theory  locating an earthquake epicentermt st. helens Crater Lake Milankovitch

subscribe to Earthquake Notification Service (ENS) at the USGS is; I subscribe and receive emails when earthquake events happen around the world (6.0 magnitude or greater); if you sign up, I recommend not opting for notification of earthquake events below 6.0 in magnitude (or you will receive a lot of notifications!).

you will find some of these links in the table above; they are also found in the table below for your convenience

  Assignment 3: Seismic Exercises  (not required 2013)  
Links to Natural Disaster Websites (also provided below)   Learning Objectives For All Chapters

Syllabus: The syllabus is interactive, all of the Powerpoints and assignments are linked to the table (above).  Please note that not all chapters are scheduled to be covered at this time.  However, as the class progresses reading assignments may change and other assignments not currently required may be given (for example, is a natural disaster occurs somewhere in the world during our class you might be assigned a short write up on this event).  You are responsible for keeping up with any changes announced in class.  If you cannot attend a meeting, please find out from a classmate (or me) if any changes have been made to the syllabus.  Also, notice on test days we currently have videos assigned; a short lecture may be substituted in place of a video to cover sections of the book not currently assigned.  Again, please keep up on activities in class and any changes made to the syllabus.  

Grading: ...Test and Assignments: Three tests, one quiz and two assignments (a natural disaster tracking paper) will make up the bulk of your course grade.  Please note due dates should not change, but if we get behind on the syllabus changes will be announced in class (such as changing an assignment due date, etc). As mentioned above, you are responsible for keeping up on material covered in class, including any changes in the syllabus and homework assignments even if you miss a class during the semester. 

Test/Quiz Schedule:    Quiz 1 (Jan 24)    Test 1 (Feb 21)     Test 2 (Mar 28)     Test 3 (May 9)

There are 3 scheduled tests and one quiz (non-comprehensive) worth 50 points each (with exception of Quiz 1 worth 10 points; also, there is no chance for making up tests!).   

There are 2 assignments required in this course- finding disaster information on the Web and a Natural Disaster Tracking paper (40 points).  The first assignment (25 points) will help you find natural disaster information on the web and will also help you get started on the tracking paper.  These assignments are due at the beginning of class on the due date; late submittals are automatically 50% off.

Assignment Due Dates: Assignment 1 (Feb 28)     Assignment 2 (May 2)

All work will be weighted equally.  Therefore, I will add up your total points and determine where you are percentage-wise to the total points possible.  The grading scale is as follows: 90-100%=A; 79-89%=B; 68-78%=C; 57-67%=D

there are approximately 225 points possible in this course, 160 from tests/quiz (~70% of your grade) and 65 from assignments including your natural disaster tracker paper (30% of your grade); throughout the course there may be other possible points from sources such as pop quizzes and/or short homework assignments (so the above percentages are estimates that might change as the course goes on)...extra credit may be available (we will discuss this in class).  Please note again, the points are variable above depending on if other assignments (such as short papers; critical thinking problems) are given.


1. This class is intended for upper division non-science majors. Three units of lower division physical science are required. There is no need for advanced mathematics, although basic algebra is required for material comprehension.

2. The first objective is to understand current scientific theories related to the natural disasters we experience today, and the disasters of the geologic past.

3. The second objective is to examine the organization of disaster preparedness

Important Dates/Deadlines:

See academic calendar for important dates.

Attendance: Regular class attendance is important for students to accomplish the work necessary to successfully complete this course.  You are responsible for all material presented in class even if you miss for a legitimate reason (e.g., illness, family emergency, etc.).  Please notify me in advance if you cannot attend, and arrange to get class notes from another student if needed.  The scheduled tests cannot be made up if missed.  You will be dropped from this class if you accumulate three unexcused absences!  Also, if you need special accommodations for any reason (such as a disability) please let me know so we can make arrangements to meet your needs.

Contact and Office Hours: I can be reached by my office phone: 760-355-5761 or by email:  If you need to contact me outside of class, feel free to email or call me.  We can arrange an in-person meeting if needed (the hour prior to or following class would work the best).  

Cell Phones: use not allowed while you are in the classroom.  If an emergency comes up, please step out of the room to use your cell phone (and not disrupt the class).  If you use your cell phone for any reason in the classroom during class hours you will be asked to leave the room (and not come back that day).

Computers: Computer use not allowed during lectures.  Computer use is allowed in the classroom when you are working in groups or during breaks, etc., but not while the lecture is going on.


Test 1-3 and Quiz 1: 160 pts (70%)

Assignment 1: 25 pts (10%)

Assignment 2: 40 pts (20%)

225 pts total


Links to Natural Disaster Websites; if you are having problems using the links in the table above, please try the links below.  This information is from Tulane University, Natural Disaster Webpage.

Note: This list is not exhaustive, but it contains some important links that will also contain other links to natural disaster information.

Plate Tectonics

Natural Disasters in General


Volcanic Eruptions




Weather Related Disasters

 Meteorite Impacts






















Below is not applicable to this class this semester...-----------------------------

Chapter 6 Part II

Discuss: Chapter 16 (The Great Dyings)

Discuss: Chapter 11 (Weather Principles and Tornadoes)

Discuss: Chapter 9 (Volcano Case Histories: Killer Events)

Discuss: Chapters 6 (Some Earthquakes in Western North America; Reading-skip pages 142-143; 146-151 and write-up on Landers Earthquake, portion of pages 153-154)

Discuss: Chapter 5 (Tsunami) 

Discuss:  and   Chapter 7 (partial coverage: More U.S. and Canadian Earthquakes)

Chapter 10 and Chapter 10 Part II (mass movements; at this time, not being covered this semester)

Discuss: Chapter 14 (Floods)

Chapter 14 Part II

Chapter 1 (Natural Disasters and the Human Population; Powerpoints if you want to review them).

Discuss: Chapter 15 (Fire)

Answer QFR page 504, #9.

Research Paper: One research paper is required for this class over the great dyings. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This report must be typewritten,

with references and appropriate visual attachments (such as maps and diagrams) if needed, 

at minimum, the paper must be 4 pages (double spaced),

and answer the following questions for full credit: 1) describe 5 causes of mass extinctions and discuss how each cause affects other components of Earth's systems (the Earth's systems being the atmosphere; hydrosphere; biosphere and may also discuss a fifth component: the exosphere which includes the Sun and space); these affects on other components may amplify or lessen the original event (positive or negative feedback mechanisms, you can read about this on page 401).  (20 points)

-For example, if you describe a hotter Sun during sunspot activity as a cause of mass extinction, how does this affect other systems such as the hydrosphere (water on Earth)?; or the Atmosphere (gases surrounding the Earth)? or the Geosphere (the solid Earth)?  Be thorough in your analysis for full credit.  Ultimately, you are concerned with how these changes will lead to negative impacts on the Biosphere (all life on Earth). 

and 2)  what do you believe will eventually lead to the mass extinction of life on Earth today? Pick one cause and briefly discuss how this could wipe out life on Earth today? (5 points)

Please note, for this research paper there may not be any known answers; I am looking for analysis and conclusions from logical reasoning, showing that you understand how components of the Earth's systems are linked and perturbed by events that can influence all systems; how do these systems recover (do they cross a 'tipping point' (see page 352) of no return (positive feedback mechanisms), or do they eventually return to equilibrium (negative feedback mechanisms).    

NOTE: there should be no two papers that look alike, and the paper must be written in your own words (if you do use a short quote or sentence from the book or other source please cite correctly). If you do not do your own work, you will not get credit.  -------------------------------------------------------------



Through various chapters you have learned about Earth's processes such as plate tectonics, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that are driven by Earth's internal heat (and gravity is also involved as an energy source)...we also discussed impacts with space objects as an energy source that fuels Earth's processes (very significant when Earth formed); and you have learned about Earth's processes such as weather systems, climate and oceanography that are driven by an external source (the Sun). 

For this assignment (50 points possible), I would like you to research a natural disaster of the past (fueled by Earth's internal processes, space objects or by the Sun) and submit a (not less than 3 page, typewritten, 1.5 spaced) investigative paper on this disaster (do not double space to write less!).  Keep in mind, a geological phenomenon is not a natural disaster unless it affects people.  Your report must also include a visual attachment and a reference page (see below...these do not count as part of the 3 page write-up).

Your paper must cover the following aspects of the natural disaster you investigated:

1. Discuss in detail the geologic process(es) that caused the event (I want to know what you have learned about formation or cause of geologic events that can result in natural disasters; so if you pick a disaster related to a volcano, discuss how this particular volcano formed, why it is so explosive, etc.).  Also, discuss what the major natural or geologic hazards (a bridge falling on someone is not a natural hazard) were associated with your disaster (such as high winds, pyroclastic flows, etc.).  For this section of your report you must submit a visual attachment (e.g., diagram, chart) that enhances your paper (and refer to/describe this attachment in the body of your paper).  This attachment must be your own work!!

2. How were people affected by this disaster?  Discuss in detail how people were affected and if it changed civilization of that time period.  Bring up anything that interests you about the disaster's affect on people (myths, etc).

3. Is there a chance of this same type of disaster occurring in the same area?  Why or why not?  Have we learned from the past?

NOTE: you cannot do this investigative paper on Hurricane Katrina, The 1906 San Francisco Earthqauke, Mount St. Helens or the Tsunami of 2004!  I have too many papers on this already (creativity in your research paper choice will help your grade)!  Thank you...

You must submit your references and use at least three references for your paper.  DO NOT copy and paste information from a website as your own (that is illegal and is plagiarism) must submit the write up in your own words!  If you do quote something directly, put it in quotations and cite your will not get credit if you do not follow these guidelines....finally, DO NOT use Wikipedia as a reference!  You will be marked down for this, especially if you use this as a main source...