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EE 60N: Man versus Nature: Coping with Disasters Using Space Technology

Nov 4 Application Deadline. Cross listed: GEOPHYS 60N
Topographical map of Mount Teide, a volcano in Spain.

General Education Requirements


Units: 4

See Explore Courses for Schedule

Recommended: No prior knowledge is assumed, but students should be comfortable running pre-existing computer applications.

Course Description

Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, hurricanes, and fires, affect the lives of thousands of people worldwide every day. The disaster following the 9.0 earthquake in Japan spawned a tidal wave, resulting in a lack of electricity to a nuclear plant and many unforeseen consequences. A single earthquake in Haiti killed over 200,000 people in 2010. Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans, while superstorm Sandy attacked the northeast and displaced hundreds of thousands. Really large disasters, such as asteroid impacts, have periodically obliterated many entire species of life on earth. But over the last 20 years, developments in space-borne imaging technology have made it possible to respond quickly to the threat of such disasters, and new understanding of the physical processes involved allows us to anticipate and mitigate the consequences of natural disasters. 

This course will explore these new tools, how they are applied to natural disasters, and how the remote-sensed data are manipulated and analyzed. We will devote some class time to computer manipulation of remote-sensing data. Students will be introduced to current research, duplicate some of the data-analysis procedures, and prepare a report on responding to a selected hazard using space technology. We will emphasize discussion of the basic scientific issues governing our earth and how these issues occasionally lead to natural disasters. Also, we will consider political and social consequences and costs of disaster mitigation and how scientific knowledge affects policy. 

Meet the Instructor: Howard Zebker

Howard Zebker

Howard Zebker holds joint faculty appointments in electrical engineering and geophysics, and his research addresses radar remote sensing in its various forms. Most of his work focuses on scientific studies of Earth and the planets, such as examining Earth's crustal deformation from earthquakes and volcanoes, studying the polar regions and their influence on the world's climate, and mapping the surfaces of planets and moons in the solar system. His research group also addresses engineering issues arising in the design and use of satellite radar systems, including signal processing, design, and analysis; atmospheric electromagnetic (EM) propagation and correction; and very high-speed networking and data processing.