EENS 3050

Natural Disasters

Fall 2013

Instructor: Dr. Stephen A. Nelson
Office Hours - MWF 1:00 - 3:00 PM,  Room 208, Blessey Hall

e-mail -         

Office Phone 862-3194
Required Textbook: Natural Disasters 9th Edition by Patrick L. Abbott
Available in Tulane Bookstore and from Coursesmart
Course Grading:  Your grade in this course will be determined on the following percentage distribution:


Midterm Exam 25%
Final Exam 30%
Homework 25%
Disaster Summary 15%
Field Trip 5%


Web Site:
Further course materials, including a copy of this syllabus, all homework assignments, lecture notes, disaster summary information, announcements from the instructor, and useful internet links can be found on the Internet at:  Be sure to check this web page regularly throughout the course for important announcements and updates.


Homework and Exams:
The midterm and final exams will be mostly objective in nature with questions coming from the reading material, lectures, and homework assignments. No make-up exams will be given. The Final Exam will be cumulative. Homework assignments consist of exercises designed to help the student gain practical experience in examining information about the occurrence and effects of natural disasters. All homework answers must be typewritten. Due dates are listed in the schedule below.  All homework is due by the end of the class period on the due date.  Due dates and times are firm.  Late assignments will be subject to a 50% penalty and will not be graded in detail. Turning in homework by email is discouraged because it requires extra work for the instructor.


Field Trip
Because part of New Orleans is still a disaster zone, we have an excellent opportunity to observe the effects of a natural disaster first-hand.  In order to help understand the Katrina disaster 5% of your grade will be based on participation on a 4.5 hour field trip to the disaster area. To receive the 5%, all you need to do is participate in the field trip.  To sign up for a field trip please go to the the web page HERE. Be sure to follow all links on that page.


Disaster Summary:
Students will be required to find information on major natural disasters that occur during the time period of the course. Information for this summary will be found in newspapers, magazines, and on the internet. On the last day of class, each student will turn in a short summary of the 10 worst disasters that occurred during the course. This summary should include information on the type, details, effects, death/injury toll, and economic impact of each of these 10 disasters. Further information on the disaster summary can be found HERE.


Honor Code:
All students are expected to follow the Tulane Honor Code.  If you are unfamiliar with the Honor Code or have any questions about it, get a copy of the Honor Code from your Dean's office or view it at:  In short, the Honor Code states that all work turned in for credit must be your own work in your own words, unless clear and explicit acknowledgement of the sources of the work is given.  This does not mean that collaboration on assignments is discouraged.  You may collaborate, just make sure that the work you turn in is in your own words, and not just a copy of the work of your collaborators.


Course Goals and Objectives

  1. The student will gain an understanding of the geologic and atmospheric processes responsible for natural hazards, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, and asteroid impacts.
  2. The student will gain an understanding of the areas susceptible to natural hazards and the frequency which these hazards become natural disasters.
  3. The student will gain an understanding of practical ways to avoid the effects of natural disasters and mitigate the effects in areas where they are likely to occur.


Schedule of Lectures and Assignments




Aug. 27

Intro and Natural Disasters & Assessing Hazards and Risk

Homework Assigned: I. Disaster Info on the Internet


Ch. 1

Aug. 29  

Natural Disasters & Assessing Hazards and Risk

Earth Structure, Materials, Systems, and Cycles


Ch 2
Lecture Notes

Sept. 3

Earth Structure, Materials, Systems, and Cycles

Ch. 2
Lecture Notes
Sept. 5

Earthquakes: Causes and Measurements

Homework I Due

Homework Assigned: II. Seismological Exercises

Ch. 3
Sept. 10

Earthquake Hazards and Risks


Ch 3 & 4
Lect. Notes
Sept. 12

Earthquake Prediction, Mitigation, and Control

Ch. 4 & 5
Sept. 17

Earthquake Case Histories

Homework II Due

Ch.4 & 5
Sept. 19

Volcanoes, Magma, and Volcanic Eruptions

Homework Assigned: III. Volcanological Exercises

Ch. 6
Sept. 24

Volcanic Landforms, Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics

Ch. 6
Sept. 26

Volcanic Hazards, Beneficial Aspects, and Predicting Eruptions

Ch. 6
Oct. 1

Volcanic Case Histories

Homework III Due

Ch. 7
Oct. 3 Tsunami Ch 8
Oct. 8


Ch 8
Oct. 10


Oct. 15

Midterm Exam

Oct. 17

The Ocean-Atmosphere System

Homework Assigned: IV Weather Exercises

Ch. 9 & 12
Oct. 20 Suday Field Trip (only if you signed up for this date)  
Oct. 22 Thunderstorms & Tornadoes Ch. 10
Oct. 24 Tropical Cyclones Ch. 11
Oct. 29 Tropical Cyclones Ch. 11
Oct. 31

Tropical Cyclones

Homework IV Due

Homework Assigned: V Flooding Exercises

Nov. 2 Saturday Field Trip (only if you signed up for this date)  
Nov. 5 River Systems & Causes of Flooding Ch. 13
Nov. 7 River Flooding Ch.13
Nov. 12 Flooding Hazards, Prediction and Human Intervention Ch.13
Nov. 14

Flooding Case History

Homework V Due

Nov. 19 Mass Movements and Mass Movement Process
Homework Assigned: VI. Mass Movement Exercises
Ch. 15
Nov. 21

Slope Stability, Triggering Events, Mass Movement Hazards

Nov. 26

Subsidence: Dissolution & Human Related Causes


Ch. 15
Nov. 28

Thanksgiving Holiday - no class

Dec. 3

Coastal Hazards

Homework VI Due

Ch. 16
Dec. 5

Meteorites & Impacting Events

Disaster Summary Due

Ch. 17 & Epilogue
Dec. 13 FINAL EXAMINATION 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM  

Obtain a PDF version of the Syllabus

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