Welcome to Natural Disasters!


Natural Disasters On-line Syllabus - NOT FINAL YET

Click here for the on-line class schedule (includes reading guides)

Click here if you need help in this class

Click here for a pdf of the one-page class information sheet that I hand out on the first day

Click here for tips for effective studying from memory researchers

Possibly interested in a geoscience career?

Click here for an explanation of some geoscience careers.
Click here for a pdf showing 2011 Median Salaries for Geoscience-related Occupations
Click here for even more details about geoscience salaries.

Course Description: Geology 7

In this course you will examine earth materials and earth processes through the study of catastrophes. Topics include: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, landslides, global warming, floods, coastal erosion, hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and impacts (asteroids, comets, meteorites). Causes, effects and mitigation of natural disasters also will be examined. No prerequisite. 3 units. Satisfies GE area B1.

General Area B1 Learning Outcomes

Explain and apply core ideas and models concerning physical systems and mechanisms, citing critical observations, underlying assumptions and limitations.

Describe how scientists create explanations of natural phenomena based on the systematic collection of empirical evidence subjected to rigorous testing and/or experimentation.

Access and evaluate scientific information, including interpreting tables, graphs and equations.

Recognize evidence-based conclusions and form reasoned opinions about science-related matters of personal, public and ethical concern.

Specific Learning Outcomes for this class

Understand the earth processes involved in severe storms, floods, coastal erosion, landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.

Understand the role of basic earth materials (rocks, water, air) in natural disasters.

Integrate the concepts of plate tectonic theory with the occurrence of geologic hazards.

Understand the role of science in evaluating, predicting, and mitigating natural disasters.

Think critically about the scientific evidence associated with geologic and atmospheric hazards.

Appreciate the magnitude and return periods of different geologic and atmospheric hazards.

Recognize the relationship between human activity and natural disasters.

Textbook Information

Required textbook: Natural Disasters (9th edition) by Patrick Abbot. The one with the blue cover is the complete 9th edition (ISBN 9780078022876), the one with the brownish cover is the same edition, but only contains the chapters covered by this Natural Disasters class at Sac State (page numbers are identical to the full version) - this is a 3-hole punched loose leaf version (ISBN 9781259123467), and is only available in the Sac State Bookstore (costing less than the full book). Scroll down for links for some places to get the textbooks new/used.

textbook coverOR            Geol7 Text Cover Image

Reserve copies of the text is available in the library:

Using the considerably cheaper 8th Edition instead

If you cannot afford either version of the 9th edition, then you can still get by with a used copy of the 8th edition - much of it is the same as the newer edition. Please be forewarned that in my lectures I reference page numbers and figure numbers from the 9th edition (much of the text and figures are the same as the 8th edition, but rearranged).

A few links where you can find used/new copies of the texts (feel free to do your own search!):

Reading Guides and Exam Study Guides

I know that it is sometimes difficult to figure out what your professor may think is important in the textbook readings. Therefore, I have created some reading guides for you to use as you read. The reading guides are linked on the class schedule page. These will not be collected or graded, they are simply available for your use to help you stay on task with the readings and pay attention to what I think are some of the important concepts in each chapter. Each reading guide comes in the form of a pdf - simply click on the readings listed in the on-line class schedule to download the pdfs.

A complete list of learning objectives will be posted on the exam page at least one week before each exam to help you study. However, the objectives for each topic will be posted on the lecture page as we go along, so you don't have to wait until the complete list is posted to get started. I just combine all of these objectives into a single document before the exam. So, if you keep up with these objectives as we finish each topic, then when exam time comes you should be ready.

Getting Help

My office hours are:

Dr. Munn
TO BE ANNOUNCED in Placer Hall, room 1018
email: bjmunn@csus.edu

If you need help, but cannot meet during my official office hours, then e-mail me your question (bjmunn@csus.edu) or set an appointment for a different time to meet. Alternatively, You could meet withone of my Student Assistanst or a geology tutor at the Peer and Academic Resource Center (PARC). Here is information about my Assistants and the PARC tutors:

Evan Fau

Emily Desrochers

The Peer and Academic Resource Center is in Lassen Hall (second floor, room 2200). I am hopeful that they will have a geology tutor available. I will update this information as soon as I find out the details.

If you are unused to reading science textbooks or have trouble studying effectively, here are some links to help you develop those skills:

Help with writing

For free, one-on-one help with reading or writing in any class, visit the University Reading and Writing Center (URWC) in Calaveras 128. The URWC can help you at any stage in your reading and writing processes: coming up with a topic, developing and organizing a draft, understanding difficult texts, or developing strategies to become a better editor. Students can sign up for up to an hour a week with a tutor by visiting the URWC in CLV 128—visit the URWC during week two of the semester to sign up for regular weekly tutoring. Students may drop in at any time, but the best time to drop is during our “drop-in only” hours M-R 2:00-4:00. The Writing Center also offers tutoring for one unit of academic credit through ENGL121. For URWC hours and more information, visit the website at http://www.csus.edu/writingcenter/.

Accessing your grades on SacCt (Blackboard)

I will be using SacCt so that you can keep tabs on your grades and also for announcements. You can log in to SacCT at https://sacct.csus.edu/. You will need your saclink account and password in order to log in. If you are new to SacCt, then you can get information about it at this link: http://www.csus.edu/sacct/.


Grading will be broken down as follows:

I use the traditional breakdowns for your letter grades:

A: ≥93                     B+: 87-90                    C+: 77-80                  D+: 67-70                    F: <60
A-: 90-93                B:   83-87                    C:   73-77                   D:   63-67
                                B-:  80-83                    C-:  70-73                   D-:  60-63     

Click here for a general description of final letter grades.

Exams » 66%

Basic Exam Information

There will be three in-class non-cumulative pyramid exams, each worth 22% of your grade. See the Exam Page for testing dates and information about pyramid exams. Each exam will consist of multiple choice and true/false questions; bring two scantrons (Form No. 882-E) to each exam. No electronic devices of any kind (mp4 players, cell phones, etc.) may be used during the first part of the pyramid exam. If you miss an exam you will receive a zero for that exam, you may take the optional comprehensive exam to replace this score.

The Optional Comprehensive Exam

If you missed an exam or did not do as well as you would have liked on an exam, then you will have an opportunity to improve your average exam grade by taking the comprehensive final exam. This final exam can be used to replace any single previous exam grade, including one that you may have missed due to unforeseen circumstances. The optional final will be administered during the second hour of the final exam period and will be run as a pyramid exam (just like your other exams). If your score on the comprehensive final is lower than the test score you wish to replace, it will not be counted. Taking the optional final exam cannot hurt your course grade.

Homework » 20%

Basic Information

Homework will be assigned and posted on the web site as we start new topics in the text; usually it will be due every Thursday except on weeks when you have an exam (see the Class Schedule for due dates). Please check the Homework Page regularly to get the required assignments as I post them, and e-mail me if you have problems accessing them!

Each homework assignment will consist of ten questions - some will be from the textbook, some I will make up, some will take you to various web sites to learn more. If you pay attention in class and take good notes, then you shouldn't have a problem answering the questions. I recommend that you review your notes (and the on-line notes) prior to doing the homework, that will probably save you some time and effort and will also get you to review the concepts, which will be helpful for the tests.

Feel free to confer with other classmates as you do the work, BUT I expect your written work be be your own (that is do NOT copy from each other or from any other source - that is plagiarims and will not be tolerated) - if you can't verbalize it in YOUR OWN WORDS, then how will I know if you really understand what you are writing? Click here for a link that explains what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

Each assignment should be be legibly handwritten with your name clearly written at the top. These homework assignments are not meant to be busy work - they are a way for me (and you) to assess what you are learning and to make sure that you keep up with the material as you go along. So, try to use them as a way to gauge your learning in this class. There is a lot to understand if you are new to geologic and atmospheric hazards; if you don't keep up, then you will never be able to cram it all in the night before the exam.

Once again, although I encourage you to work with each other and learn from each other, it is NOT okay to copy answers directly from each other - you will receive a zero for your assignment when you are caught.


Due to the large class size, my student assistants and I cannot grade every single question on your homework. Instead, first we will check to make sure that you have answered all ten questions, and then we will grade only one of them. Each homework assignment will be worth 10 points: 5 points for writing something down for all ten questions and 5 points for correctly answering the one that is actually graded. Your homework will be returned the next class period, if at all possible. Once they are graded and returned, I will post the answers on the Homework Page.

Because every question is not corrected, it is important that you check the posted answers so that you understand the answers I expected for each question. Reading through my answers should help you to understand both the material and my expectations better - be sure to e-mail me if you have any questions. I should warn you that I almost always choose at least one question from each homework assignment to put on the exam whether it was specifically listed on the learning objectives or not.

Late Homework

I do not encourage you to turn in your homework late - if you do, it will put you behind and it is a pain to grade late work. However, I do understand that this class is not your entire life and that other things may come up that take priority. Therefore, I allow a small grace period in handing in these assignments. Here is my policy: no late homework will be accepted once I have graded and returned a homework assignment. This means that you actually have a grace period of one class session to turn in your homework. For example, if homework is due on Thursday, then I will turn back the corrected work on the following Tuesday - if you did not get the homework done by the Thursday due date, then you can still turn it in to me by the BEGINNING of class on Tuesday. Remember, it MUST be turned in by the BEGINNING of class (or slipped under my office door, Placer Hall 1018, any time PRIOR to class). Once the corrected homework is picked up by the rest of the class I will NOT accept that homework. If you miss a homework assignment you will receive a zero for that assignment, however you may do any of the posted optional replacement credit homework to replace that zero.

Optional Replacement Credit Homework

If you completely miss turning in the homework, or you did not do as well as you would like on any assignment, you may do the optional replacement credit homework to replace those scores. I offer a total of six different optional assignments spread throughout the semester (see the Homework Page or Class Schedule for due dates) - these can be done in lieu of any other homework assignment. It is worth doing these (even if you have turned in every homework) for two reasons: (1) it helps you to review the material in that topic prior to the exam, and (2) it may help to raise your homework average grade because you can replace any homework of a lower grade with each replacement credit assignment.

The optional replacement credit homework will be accepted only on the dates indicated on the course schedule (with no grace period). This is because I post the answers to optional homework directly after class on the due date so that everyone can use the answers to study for the exams. Please note that replacement credit homework can be used to replace any homework of a lower grade, is completely optional, and will not be counted if you don't do well on it.

News Item Disaster Summaries » 9%

On the Thursday before each exam, you will turn in ONE relevant news item with a written disaster summary page. To be 'relevant,' the news item must be current (published after December 15, 2014) AND must be related to one of the types of natural hazards covered by that exam. You will need to print out two things to complete each assignment:

The purpose of the news item assignment is twofold: (1) to apply some of what you have learned to current events, and (2) to give me another way to assess your learning in this class. If you do not test well, the news item write up is another way for you to show me what you understand about natural disasters. Your write up should showcase your learning.

A guide to completing the disaster summary is located on the News Item Page, be sure to print this out and look it over as you do the summary. If you are unsure of your write up, I would be happy to look it over for you, but only if you give it to me early. If you need help with your writing, take advantage of the Sac State University Writing Center.

Each news item will be graded on a 10 point scale, the point values for each part of the summary are given on the guide to completing the Disaster Summary

Please Don't Plagiarize!

You may use your text or other sources to get ideas for you disaster summary, however, do not just repeat information word for word (that is plagiarism and will not be tolerated). Click here for a link that explains what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. If you are unsure of whether or not you are plagiarizing, then you can start by running your text through an on-line plagiarism checker (just do a search for 'free plagiarism checker' to find one). Please note that copying from another student also is considered to be plagiarism.

Late News Item Disaster Summaries

As with the homework assignments, once graded and returned, late news item disaster summaries will not be accepted (in other words, as long as I have not already handed back the disaster summaries to the class, then you can still give it to me). If you completely miss turning in a disaster summary, or you think that you could do better than one that you already handed in, then you may do an optional replacement credit news item disaster summary to replace those scores. See the news item page for details about these optional replacement credit news item disaster summaries.

In-Class Work » 5%

Basic Information

In-class work is a way for me to keep track of what you do or do not understand about the lecture material. You only get credit for this work if you are actually present in class to participate. In-class work will be graded on a √-, √, √+ scale, which translates into these numbers:

Types of In-Class Work

Think-Pair-Share Questions or Free-writing
I will pause several times during each lecture to ask you to confer with your neighbors or write for a minutes or so about some question related to the lecture material. I may randomly call on students by name to answer - you can receive credit for your answer only if you are in class to answer. If you are not in class to answer the question, then you will receive a zero.

Video Questions
When videos are shown in class, I will ask you to answer a few questions about the video either as you watch or immediately afterward. Your written answers will be collected, reviewed, and returned the next class period.

This is a technique used to assess your previous knowledge about a concept before a concept is introduced during lecture, you cannot "fail" these quizzes if you provide an honest answer. Your answers to these occasional pre-quiz concept questions will be collected, reviewed, and returned the next class period.

Group Activities
Although this class is large, I will occasionally ask you to participate in an in-class group activity. The answers worked out by each group will be collected, reviewed, and returned the next class period.

Short Readings
I may ask you to do a short reading assignment (most about someone's first hand experience with a particular hazard), which then will be used during the following class period. To get full credit for this, you must do the reading, the short written reflection assigned for that reading, and then show up to class ready to discuss the reading and your reflections. This is something new that I am still developing and thinking about doing, so it may or may not happen this term, but then again it might.

Reasonable Accommodation Policy

If you have a disability and require accommodations, you need to provide disability documentation to Services for Students with Disabilities (SSWD).  For more information please visit the Services to Students with Disabilities website. They are located in Lassen Hall 1008 and can be contacted by phone at (916) 278-6955 (Voice), (916) 278-7239 (TDD only) or via email at sswd@csus.edu.
Please discuss your accommodation needs with me after class or during my office hours early in the semester.

Classroom Etiquette

I expect respect to be shown both to me and to your peers in the classroom. Please turn off your laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices during class time, and do not hold private conversations while I am talking up front. Although your conversations may not carry down to me, your talking can distract students who are trying to hear what I say. I will not tolerate private conversations during class time and I will ask you to leave if you persist in distracting those around you. I do not mind if you arrive late to class as long as it is not a chronic problem and you enter the class discretely. If you need to leave class early, I expect you to tell me before class starts (thank you).

Academic Honesty

I expect you to do your own work in this course and act with integrity in completing all assignments and in-class work. I encourage you to confer with other students during the in-class activities and while doing your homework or studying for exams. HOWEVER, all of your written work must be your own - plagiarism (including copying from each other) is dishonest. Zeroes will be given to all parties who turn in identical answers on any work, who copy directly from each other, from the book, from my web site, or from any other source. See http://library.csus.edu/content2.asp?pageID=353 for more information about plagiarism. Academic dishonesty may result in a referral to the Office of Student Affairs for disciplinary action.

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