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Jason Moore,


Natural disasters have a profound and costly impact on humanity and so it is of great importance that we understand their causes so as to better protect against their effects. In this course we will learn about the causes of the major natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, bolide impacts, etc.), the processes that influence their frequency and severity, their effects and ways to mitigate them, and our ability as scientists to predict them. We will contrast our knowledge of these hazards with their representations in the mass media. Finally, we will create a natural disaster hazard plan for a major global city to assess and quantify the natural risks to human life by location.


Silver 2010 - The Signal and the Noise
Gigerenzer 1996 - Reckoning with Risk
Human Rights and Natural Disasters (Brooks-Bern Project Report)
Mind the Risk (Swiss Re Disaster Insurance Report)
A collection of articles from the scientific literature relevant to each studied disaster
A collection of case studies describing the effects and recovery strategies from notable examples of each studied disaster


Excerpts from: Dante's Peak, Armageddon, Twister


After a brief introduction considering science, natural disasters in general, and the manners in which we can assess risk, we will split the course into two-week blocks. During each block we will discuss a particular natural disaster, what controls its occurrence and severity, what impacts it might have on human populations, and how we might mitigate these impacts. For each disaster you will be required to calculate the risks to a particular major city, and your hometown. You will present on two of these during the course of the semester. You will have to submit a final natural disaster management plan for your city, stating the relative risks of each disaster, which you consider to be significant, and what steps should be taken to mitigate these risks.




Jason Moore earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 2006, with a focus on the reconstruction of vertebrate palaeoecological patterns. Subsequently he has worked on a large number of studies examining ecology in the past, both from recent assemblages (i.e. bones from the Yellowstone River in Montana and shells from Baja California) and fossil assemblages (from a range of time periods in the US and India). Dr. Moore is fascinated by both the complexity of teasing ecological information from the past, and by the amazing insight that can be gleaned with the correct techniques.