Effective: Early Spring 8-Week 2018/2019

GEOG 223: *Environmental Disasters

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  Course Description

Introduction to environmental hazards and disasters. Emphasis on causes of extreme natural events, their geographic distribution and human responses/ adjustments. Cross-listed as GEOG 223.

Prerequisite: C or higher in GEOG 101 or ENVS 115

Proctored Exams: Midterm and Final



  • Abbott, Patrick L. (2017). Natural Disasters (10th Ed). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.  
    • [ISBN-978-0-07-802298-2]

MBS Information

Textbooks for the course may be ordered from MBS Direct. You can order

For additional information about the bookstore, visit http://www.mbsbooks.com.

  Course Overview

This course explains how Earth Processes, often influenced by humans, impact society. Earth processes can cause extreme natural events like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, climate change, floods, fires, mass movements, and impacts with space objects are explored. The impact and mitigation of these natural events on global human population is woven throughout the course.

  Technology Requirements

Participation in this course will require the basic technology for all online classes at Columbia College:
  • A computer with reliable Internet access
  • A web browser
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Microsoft Office or another word processor such as Open Office

You can find more details about standard technical requirements for our courses on our site.

  Course Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe physical earth and atmospheric process that result in potentially hazardous natural events.
  2. Explain the impacts that natural events can have on humans.
  3. Recognize human responses to and potential prevention of hazardous natural events.


Grading Scale

Grade Points Percent
A 468-520 90-100%
B 416-467 80-89%
C 364-415 70-79%
D 312-363 60-69%
F 0-311 0-59%

Grade Weights

Assignment Category Points Percent
Discussions (16) 80 15%
Quizzes (6) 240 46%
Exams (2) 200 38%
Total 520 100%

  Schedule of Due Dates

Week 1

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 1 5 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 2 5 Friday/Sunday
Quiz 1 40 Sunday

Week 2

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 3 5 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 4 5 Friday/Sunday
Quiz 2 40 Sunday
Proctor Information N/A

Week 3

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 5 5 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 6 5 Friday/Sunday
Quiz 3 40 Sunday

Week 4

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 7 5 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 8 5 Friday/Sunday
Midterm Exam 100 Sunday

Week 5

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 9 5 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 10 5 Friday/Sunday
Quiz 4 40 Sunday

Week 6

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 11 5 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 12 5 Friday/Sunday
Quiz 5 40 Sunday

Week 7

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 13 5 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 14 5 Friday/Sunday
Quiz 6 40 Sunday

Week 8

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 15 5 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion 16 5 Friday/Saturday
Final Exam 100 Saturday
Total Points: 520

  Assignment Overview


All discussions must take place in the Discussions area. Uploading an attachment as your post will not be taken into account. Each week has two discussions, and they both open on Monday of each week. The initial post for the first discussion is due Wednesday. The initial post for the second discussion is due Friday. You compose an original response, answering the questions.  Your initial post to the discussion question should answer the question fully. Your posts should contain references beyond the text readings, be sure to include the author and title in the first sentence or two so others know what piece you are referencing.

Discussion posts are worth 5 points.


There will be 6 quizzes that you have to complete in this course. Each quiz consists of 20 multiple choice questions worth 2 points each. Time limit for each quiz is 30 minutes. Each quiz is due by 11:59 p.m. CT, Sunday of the assigned week. Late quiz submissions will receive no credit.


There are two proctored exams in this course: Midterm and Final Exam. Each exam consists of 35 multiple choice questions worth 2 points each and three short answer essay questions worth 10 points each. The time limit for each exam is 70 minutes. The Midterm Exam is due by 11:59 p.m. CT, Sunday of week 4 and the Final Exam is due by 11:59 p.m. CT, Saturday of week 8. Students must submit the "Student Proctor Information Submission Form" to the Proctor Information Dropbox by the end of Week 2. This form and additional information about Proctoring is located in the Content area of the course. All proctors must be approved by instructor.

  Course Outline

Click on each week to view details about the activities scheduled for that week.


Chapter 1, Natural Disasters and the Human Population

Chapter 2, Internal Energy and Plate Tectonics

Discussion 1

What is the size of the world population of humans today? Using current growth rate what will the population be in 200 years? How does current and future population relate to natural disasters? 

Discussion 2

How and when did the Earth’s continents, oceans and atmosphere form? What is a tectonic plate and how are they related to natural disasters?

Quiz 1

Covers Chapters 1 and 2


Chapter 3, Earthquake Geology and Seismology

Chapter 4, Plate Tectonics and Earthquakes

Discussion 3

What do P and S seismic waves tell us about the nature of Earth’s interior?

Discussion 4

Which tectonic-plate edges fail most commonly in shear? In tension? In compression?

Quiz 2

Covers Chapters 3 and 4

Proctor Information
Submit your proctor form to the appropriate Dropbox folder by the end of the week. Remember to “Save” the form before placing it in Dropbox. See the Content area for more information.

Chapter 5, Earthquakes throughout the United States and Canada

Chapter 6, Volcanic Eruptions: Plate Tectonics and Magmas

Discussion 5

Explain three ways that humans have caused or triggered earthquakes.

Discussion 6

What changes in temperature, pressure and water content cause hot rock to melt? What are the two most relevant melting agents?

Quiz 3

Covers Chapters 5 and 6


Chapter 7, Volcano Case Histories: Killer Events

Chapter 8, Tsunami Versus Wind-Caused Waves

Discussion 7

Explain why it is relatively safe to watch the eruption of a Hawaiian volcano but dangerous to watch a Cascade Range volcano.

Discussion 8

What are four major causes of tsunami?

Midterm Exam

Covers Chapters 1 through 8


Chapter 9, External Energy Fuels Weather and Climate

Chapter 10, Tsunami Versus Wind-Caused Waves

Discussion 9

Explain the greenhouse effect, including details about greenhouse gases and the influence of albedo.

Discussion 10

On average, what kills more people in the United States each year: heat or tornadoes? Winter storms or hurricanes?

Quiz 4

Covers Chapters 9 and 10


Chapter 11, Hurricanes

Chapter 12, Climate Change

Chapter 13, Floods

Discussion 11

Please describe the greenhouse effect. How are humans contributing to the greenhouse effect? What are global consequences?

Discussion 12

If global ocean temperature continues to rise, what effect will it have on hurricane strength?

Quiz 5

Covers Chapters 11, 12 and 13


Chapter 14, Fires

Chapter 15, Mass Movements

Discussion 13

What is the fire triangle? What are its components?

Discussion 14

Roadways are commonly cut into the bases of slopes. When mass movements block the road, the debris is quickly removed. What is wrong with this whole process?

Quiz 6

Covers Chapters 14 and 15


Chapter 16, Coastal Processes and Hazards

Chapter 17, Impacts with Space Objects

Discussion 15

Why does our relatively small Moon have a greater tidal effect on Earth than the gigantic Sun?

Discussion 16

What evidence could be collected to demonstrate that a specific area was the site of an ancient asteroid impact?

Final Exam

Covers Chapters 1 through 16

  Course Policies

Student Conduct

All Columbia College students, whether enrolled in a land-based or online course, are responsible for behaving in a manner consistent with Columbia College's Student Conduct Code and Acceptable Use Policy. Students violating these policies will be referred to the office of Student Affairs and/or the office of Academic Affairs for possible disciplinary action. The Student Code of Conduct and the Computer Use Policy for students can be found in the Columbia College Student Handbook. The Handbook is available online; you can also obtain a copy by calling the Student Affairs office (Campus Life) at 573-875-7400. The teacher maintains the right to manage a positive learning environment, and all students must adhere to the conventions of online etiquette.


Your grade will be based in large part on the originality of your ideas and your written presentation of these ideas. Presenting the words, ideas, or expression of another in any form as your own is plagiarism. Students who fail to properly give credit for information contained in their written work (papers, journals, exams, etc.) are violating the intellectual property rights of the original author. For proper citation of the original authors, you should reference the appropriate publication manual for your degree program or course (APA, MLA, etc.). Violations are taken seriously in higher education and may result in a failing grade on the assignment, a grade of "F" for the course, or dismissal from the College.

Collaboration conducted between students without prior permission from the instructor is considered plagiarism and will be treated as such. Spouses and roommates taking the same course should be particularly careful.

All required papers may be submitted for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers may be included in the Turnitin.com reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. This service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the Turnitin.com site.


There will be no discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political affiliation, veteran status, age, physical handicap, or marital status.

Student Accessibility Resources

Students with documented disabilities who may need academic services for this course are required to register with the office of Student Accessibility Resources. Until the student has been cleared through this office, accommodations do not have to be granted. If you are a student who has a documented disability, it is important for you to read the entire syllabus as soon as possible. The structure or the content of the course may make an accommodation not feasible. Student Accessibility Resources is located in Student Affairs in AHSC 215 and can be reached by phone at (573) 875-7626 or email at sar@ccis.edu.

Online Participation

You are expected to read the assigned texts and participate in the discussions and other course activities each week. Assignments should be posted by the due dates stated on the grading schedule in your syllabus. If an emergency arises that prevents you from participating in class, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.

Attendance Policy

Attendance for a week will be counted as having submitted any assigned activity for which points are earned. Attendance for the week is based upon the date work is submitted. A class week is defined as the period of time between Monday and Sunday (except for week 8, when the work and the course will end on Saturday at midnight.) The course and system deadlines are based on the Central Time Zone.

Cougar Email

All students are provided a CougarMail account when they enroll in classes at Columbia College. You are responsible for monitoring email from that account for important messages from the College and from your instructor. You may forward your Cougar email account to another account; however, the College cannot be held responsible for breaches in security or service interruptions with other email providers.

Students should use email for private messages to the instructor and other students. The class discussions are for public messages so the class members can each see what others have to say about any given topic and respond.

Late Assignment Policy

An online class requires regular participation and a commitment to your instructor and your classmates to regularly engage in the reading, discussion and writing assignments. Although most of the online communication for this course is asynchronous, you must be able to commit to the schedule of work for the class for the next eight weeks. You must keep up with the schedule of reading and writing to successfully complete the class.

No late discussion posts will be accepted.

Late assignments or exams are not accepted, unless there are documented extreme circumstances.  You must contact me within one week of the assignment or exam with documentation if you want to make up the assignment or exam.  You must complete the missed assignment or exam within 1 weeks of the original due date.

Course Evaluation

You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link will be sent to your CougarMail that will allow you to access the evaluation. Be assured that the evaluations are anonymous and that your instructor will not be able to see them until after final grades are submitted.

Proctor Policy

Students taking courses that require proctored exams must submit their completed proctor request forms to their instructors by the end of the second week of the session. Proctors located at Columbia College campuses are automatically approved. The use of ProctorU services is also automatically approved. The instructor of each course will consider any other choice of proctor for approval or denial. Additional proctor choices the instructor will consider include: public librarians, high school or college instructors, high school or college counseling services, commanding officers, education service officers, and other proctoring services. Personal friends, family members, athletic coaches and direct supervisors are not acceptable.

  Additional Resources

Orientation for New Students

This course is offered online, using course management software provided by Desire2Learn and Columbia College. The course user guide provides details about taking an online course at Columbia College. You may also want to visit the course demonstration to view a sample course before this one opens.

Technical Support

If you have problems accessing the course or posting your assignments, contact your instructor, the Columbia College Helpdesk, or the D2L Helpdesk for assistance. Contact information is also available within the online course environment.

Online Tutoring

Smarthinking is a free online tutoring service available to all Columbia College students. Smarthinking provides real-time online tutoring and homework help for Math, English, and Writing. Smarthinking also provides access to live tutorials in writing and math, as well as a full range of study resources, including writing manuals, sample problems, and study skills manuals. You can access the service from wherever you have a connection to the Internet. I encourage you to take advantage of this free service provided by the college.

Access Smarthinking through CougarTrack under Students -> Academics -> Academic Resources.