Natural Disasters

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
GEOL 1200
Natural Disasters
Earth & Environmental Sciences
Science & Technology
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 2 hours/week Laboratory/Field Trip: 4 hours per week
Method Of Instruction
Field Experience
Methods Of Instruction

Instruction will utilize lectures, laboratories and field trips. Text and other readings will be assigned, videos of case histories may be shown, and guest lectures may be given.

Course Description
This course examines a variety of natural disasters such as: landslides, floods, volcanic eruptions and meteor impacts. The course will consider the origin, geomorphology, prediction and mediation of these dangerous events. Participation in field trips will be required.
Course Content

Lecture Topics may include

  1. Introduction: Philosophy and Fundamental Principles, perception of risks
  2. Earth Materials – a review: minerals, rocks, soil, rock-forming processes, the rock cycle
  3. Plate Tectonics – an overview: global tectonics, mega geomorphology, structure of the earth, isostasy, eustasy
  4. Earthquakes and Tsunamis: occurrence, prediction, mitigation
  5. Volcanic Activity: occurrence, prediction, mitigation
  6. Mass Wasting and Slope Stability: gravity, mechanics, role of climate, water, vegetation, role of human activity, prediction and mitigation
  7. River Flooding: drainage basins, watersheds, flood plains, fluvial processes and mechanics, sediment transport, forestry practices, prediction and mitigation
  8. Coastal Hazards: shoreline processes, coastal erosion, mitigation, prediction
  9. Water: water supply and management, water pollution (surface and groundwater), acid mine drainage
  10. Environmental Geoscience: solid, toxic and radioactive waste disposal, ocean dumping, environmental law and regulation, acid rain, air pollution and ozone depletion, environmental impact assessment
  11. Mass Extinctions and Impact Events: comets and asteroids, extinctions in Earth history
  12. Geology and Land Use Planning: site selection and evaluation
  13. Severe Weather: hurricanes, storm surges, tornadoes, drought
  14. Global Change: greenhouse effect and warming, glacial cycles, sea level change

Laboratory / Field Trip Topics may include

  1. Rocks and minerals – an overview
  2. Rocks and minerals in the field
  3. Topographic map interpretation
  4. Air photo interpretation
  5. Seismic hazard
  6. Volcanic landform / hazard
  7. Debris torrent, mass wasting
  8. River discharge and flooding
  9. Groundwater contamination
  10. Coastal landforms – engineering problems
  11. Land use – site selection / evaluation
Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course the student will:

  1. Appreciate the role that geological sciences play in the search for solutions to environmental problems.
  2. Understand the relationship between natural processes, human activities and environmental hazards.
  3. Understand the origins of several types of natural disasters and the approaches used in mitigating these hazards and planning for them.
  4. Be able to describe the geomorphological and geological context and characteristics of several types of natural disasters.
  5. Be able to identify a variety of landforms produced by a number of geomorphic processes and show an        understanding of how these landforms are created.
  6. Be able to describe the geological problems and possible solutions that are associated with toxic and hazardous wastes.
  7. Understand the importance of natural hazards assessment in land use planning.
  8. Understand the importance of natural resources and the environmental impact of their use.
  9. Demonstrate an ability to evaluate natural hazards through the use of topographic maps and observation.
  10. Demonstrate an understanding of the concepts described above at scales from global to local.
Means of Assessment
Mid-term exam 25-30%
Term Projects/field trip reports/lab reports/presentations 35-40%
Participation 5%
Final exam 30%


Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students

  • Abbott, P.L., Natural Disasters; McGraw Hill; latest edition.
  • Clague, J., Turner, B.; Vancouver, City On the Edge, latest edition, Tricouni Press, Vancouver.
  • Waterproof field notebook.