Disasters: Geology vs. Hollywood

EES 0836 – Disasters: Geology vs. Hollywood

Earthquakes in Ecuador, Japan, and even one felt in Philadelphia, volcanic ash clouds over Iceland and Chile, hurricanes Katrina, Irene, and Sandy – natural disasters are in the news. Yet all most people know about natural disasters is what they have seen in movies. Can you really drive over a lava flow in a jeep?  Are we foolish not to prepare for a major earthquake in New York City?  Could global warming melt the polar ice caps turning “dry land” into a myth or setting off a new ice age?  The thrill of watching improbable movie disaster scenarios opens the way for exercises and assignments that challenge you to sort fact from fantasy and in the process learn the fundamentals of plate tectonics, how rock properties control volcanic explosivity, calculate earthquake locations from seismic data, prepare disaster readiness plans, and understand Earth’s changing climate.  By the end of the course students acquire the background to understand the scientific data behind disasters in the news and the role of the science in shaping disaster planning policy.