EENS 6050

Natural Disasters

Fall 2012

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  Hazards and Disasters 3rd Edition by Donald Hyndman and David Hyndman
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 20%
Disaster Summary 10%
Term Paper 15%


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. Exam questions for those enrolled in EENS-6050 may differ from those on the EENS-3050 exams.  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 should 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.. 

Field Trip
Because parts of New Orleans are still in a disaster zone, we have an excellent opportunity to observe the effects of a natural disaster first-hand.  EENS 6050 students are required to participate on a 4.5  hour field trip to the disaster area.  To sign up for a field trip please go to the web page at 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 at

Term Paper
A 10 to 15 page term paper will be turned in on the last day of class (December 6, 2012).  The term paper can be on any topic related to Natural Disasters, but the topic must be approved by the instructor before September 27, 2012.  The term paper must show an advanced knowledge and understanding of the chosen topic.  The student may turn in a near final version of the term paper by November 20 for the instructor to review and critique.  The instructor will then return the reviewed paper, along with his comments so that the student has time to make the necessary revisions prior to the due date.  All students are encouraged to take this approach. (Note that if you are seeking to fulfil the writing intnesive component, the term paper must be at least 20 pages and you must turn in a near final version on Novemeber 20 for the instructors review and critique).

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




Sept. 4

Intro and discussion of Hurricane Isaac

Homework Assigned: I. Disaster Info on the Internet

Sept. 6   Natural Disasters & Assessing Hazards and Risk

Ch. 1, Ch.2
Lecture Notes

Sept. 11

Earth Structure, Materials, Systems, and Cycles

Ch. 2
Lecture Notes
Sept. 13

Earth Structure, Materials, Systems, and Cycles

Homework I Due

Ch. 2
Sept. 15 Saturday Field Trip (only if you signed up for this date)  
Sept. 18

Earthquakes: Causes and Measurements

Homework Assigned: II. Seismological Exercises

Ch 3
Lect. Notes
Sept. 20

Earthquake Hazards and Risks

Ch. 3 and 4
Sept. 25 Earthquake Prediction, Mitigation, and Control
Ch. 3 & 4
Sept. 27

Earthquake Case Histories

Homework II Due

Term Paper Talk must be approved

Ch. 3 & 4
Sept. 30 Sunday Field Trip (only if you signed up for this date)  
Oct. 2


Ch. 5
Oct. 4

Volcanoes, Magma, and Volcanic Eruptions

Homework Assigned: III. Volcanological Exercises

Ch. 6 & 7
Oct. 9

Volcanic Landforms, Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics

Ch. 6 & 7
Oct. 11 FALL BREAK  
Oct. 16 Volcanic Hazards, Beneficial Aspects, and Predicting Eruptions
Ch. 6 &  7
Oct. 18

Volcanic Case Histories

Homework III Due

Ch. 6 & 7 Lect. Notes
Oct. 23

Midterm Exam

Oct. 25 Mass Movements and Mass Movement Process
Homework Assigned: IV. Mass Movement Exercises
Ch. 8
Oct. 30

Slope Stability, Triggering Events, Mass Movement Hazards

Nov. 1 Subsidence: Dissolution & Human Related Causes Ch. 9
Lect. Notes
Nov. 6

The Ocean-Atmosphere System

Homework IV Due

Homework Assigned: V Flooding Exercises

Ch. 10
Nov. 8

River Systems & Causes of Flooding

Ch. 11
Nov. 13

River Flooding

Ch. 11
Nov. 15

Flooding Hazards, Prediction and Human Intervention


Ch. 12
Nov. 20

Coastal Hazards

Thunderstorms & Tornadoes

Homework V Due

Homework Assigned: VI Weather Exercises

Draft of Term Paper Due

Ch. 13 & 15
Nov. 22 Thanksgiving Holiday - no class  
Nov. 27

Tropical Cyclones

Ch. 14
Nov. 29 Tropical Cyclones Ch. 14
Dec. 4

Tropical Cyclones

Homework VI Due

Ch. 14
Dec. 6

Meteorites & Impacting Events
Disaster Summary Due

Term Paper Due

Ch. 17
Dec. 14 FINAL EXAMINATION 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM  


Obtain a PDF version of the Syllabus

Return to EENS 6050 Homepage