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Seismic Hazard
Seismo Lab
Earth & Planetary
UC Berkeley


The course will present the reality of earthquakes in California including:

  • What causes earthquakes and why we have had so few in recent years.
  • Where earthquakes occur and why UC Berkeley is across a major fault.
  • What is the chance of future earthquakes and how much the ground will shake.
  • Which earthquakes generate tsunamis and how we can warn of their arrival.
  • Which buildings will collapse and how we can reduce the risk.

You will learn to evaluate scientific information, solve problems and influence policy through the use of the following case studies:

  1. The Hayward Temblor: Likely damage from this expected East Bay earthquake and its long-term economic impact.
  2. Straining California: Continuous ground movements across the state and what they mean for earthquake probability.
  3. Unzipping Turkey: Earthquakes along the North Anatolian Fault and why so many people have (and probably will) die.
  4. The Sumatra earthquake and tsunami: What happened and can it happen again?

This class was featured in the April 2006 issue of National Geographic in an article discussing the impacts of earthquakes on society and how we are, or are not, tackling them.

Goals of the class

  • How close do you live to the fault? check out the map
  • What is the chance of an earthquake this semester?
  • What will be the impact on the Californian economy?

    The goal is to inform future leaders of our society about the various hazards associated with earthquakes and tsunamis. We hope to foster a generation of non-scientists who are sophisticated consumers of scientific information, and to develop a generation of scientists who are sensitive to the political, economic, and social context of their work.

    EPS 20 is a 3 credit course, there are no prerequisites and the class fulfills the Physical Science breadth requirement. The class is intended for all students interested in earthquakes, their impact on our society and how we deal with them. Students taking this class come from the the humanities, social sciences, sciences, engineering, business and law.

    What students think of this class

    "I enjoyed the combination of field trips, guest speakers, films and discussion on current events. Getting multiple perspectives helped in understanding the material."

    "The focus on earthquakes in the Berkeley region made me really, really, really care about the material."

    "This is the best physical science breadth requirement I know of."

    More student reviews...

    If you have questions or want to know more please email Richard Allen.