Geosc/AOS 140: Natural Hazards and Disasters
Natural hazards abound on the planet. From enormously tragic disasters such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake or the 2011 tsunami in Japan, to storms and flooding like Hurricane Harvey, to local calamities such as landslides and sinkholes, there are a lot of ways that the earth is trying to do us in. This course will examine a range of hazards, including earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods, and even asteroid impacts. We will explore what actually happens in each of these types of events – the real story of the physical causes, not the Hollywood version. We will answer questions like “Why is it that scientists can predict the path and strength of a hurricane in detail, but can’t seem to predict earthquakes at all?” The cost in life and property of the resulting disasters is growing as human population and the complexity of the built environment both increase. The course will address the ways in which uncertainty is addressed and quantified through probabilistic hazard analysis, forecasting, and mitigation strategies. We will study how governments, insurance companies, and even individuals can evaluate the risk to life and property and plan rational, science-based response. By the end of the course, students will understand the underlying processes causing natural disasters and how to use methods and tools to forecast their likelihood and their damaging effects. Co-taught with Bradley Singer.