EOSC 114 · The Catastrophic Earth: Natural Disasters

Introduction to causes and physical characteristics of disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, storm surge, thunderstorms, tornadoes, landslides, wind waves, meteor impacts, mass extinctions. [3-0-0] Corequisite: EOSC 111 is recommended.

Course Availability & Schedule

 Distance education offered

 Non-specialist course

Overarching Goals

A. For earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, storms, waves, and meteor impacts, you will:

  1. Learn how they work.
  2. Locate the dangerous places where they've often occurred.
  3. Learn ways to observe and monitor them.
  4. Find out why it's hard to forecast them.
  5. Learn what you and your community can do to prepare for them.

B. We will strive to:

  1. Empower you to be a survivor.
  2. Enable you to approach new challenges insightfully.
  3. Sharpen your observations of nature.
  4. Stimulate your excitement in our planet.

See also learning goals for non-specialist courses.


See the UBC course calendar here.


If the lecture section you want is full, consider registering for the Distance Education section (99A/B in Fall, or 99C/D in Spring) instead. It's the same course covering the same content for the same credits, but you do it online from home. Over 90% of the Distance Ed students are regular on-campus UBC students.

The Earth Course Assistance Centre is a help service for all students in 1st year EOSC courses.

EOSC114 was part of EOS-SEI, the EOS Science Education Initiative during 2007-2009.

Textbook and clickers

  • Optional: Abbott and Samson. 2012. "Natural Disasters". Custom Edition for UBC. McGraw-Hill Custom Publishing. ISBN on package: 978-125925870X; ISBN on textbook: 978-125903339-1. This text book is not required, but is recommended.
  • The textbook is less expensive if you buy it at Discount Textbooks, located on University Blvd 2 blocks off campus above the Staples in the University Village shopping mall. Discount Textbooks contact info:  #217-2150 Western Parkway, Vancouver, BC  V6T 1K6 Canada.  email:    Phone: 604-221-1822, fax: 604-221-1822
  • REQUIRED: A student personal response system ("i-clicker" brand) is required. This is the clicker that has been adopted UBC-wide (required for on-campus lecture sections only). The clicker can be purchased at the University Bookstore or at Discount Textbooks. We will not be using the iClicker-GO system for smartphones

Lecture Topics

Week Topic (but check for details once registered)
1-2 Fragile System?: The earth, ocean, atmosphere system. Natural disasters are rare events. Energy available for change. Risk analysis. Population issues.
2-3 The Shaking Earth (Earthquakes): Plate tectonics, faults, earthquakes, volcanoes, eruptions, lava, ash, pyroclastic flows. Relationship of disasters to the broader fields of seismology, geology, geophysics.
4-5 The Explosive Earth (Volcanoes): Eruptions, lava, ash, pyroclastic flows. Relationship of these Earth disasters to the broader fields of volcanology and geology.
6-7 The Unstable Ground (Landslides): Debris flows, mud flows, erosion, floods. Relationship to hydrology, geological engineering.
8-9 The Turbulent Atmosphere (Storms): Hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes, lightning. Relationship to meteorology.
10-11 The Violent Ocean (Waves): Tsunami, storm surge, wind waves, rogue waves. Relationship to oceanography.
12-13 Impacts from Space & Mass Extinction Events: (Meteor impacts): Mass extinctions. Relationship to paleontology.
13 Review: Physical processes common to geophysical disasters.


Although we do not require that you take a lab, your own program might require that you take a "lab-based" science course. If you need such a lab-based course, you may register for both the 3-credit EOSC 114 (the regular on-campus lecture course or the distance ed sections) and the 1-credit laboratory course EOSC 111 concurrently. Even if your own program doesn't require that your science course be lab-based, many students find that taking the lab helps them to understand the lecture material better.