Professor: Dr. Robert Thompson
Catalog Description: Lecture
Dr. Thompson is Chair of the Department of Marine Affairs and teaches many courses on subjects ranging from planning, law, geographic information systems (GIS) for coastal management, land development, environmental planning, and human responses to coastal hazards and disasters.
He received a Master of Community Planning and a Ph.D. in Planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to receive his Juris Doctorate from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley.
In recent years, coastal disasters have been some of the biggest stories in the news. In 2004, four hurricanes made landfall in Florida and a massive tsunami devastated coastal communities in southern Asia. In the winter of 2004-2005, landslides in California coastal communities killed people and destroyed houses. Then the 2005 hurricane season (which included Katrina and Rita) proved to be the most active and damaging one ever experienced in the United States.
Because the media focuses on catastrophic events, the public fails to recognize the cumulative toll of coastal hazards. For instance, even though slope failures commonly occur along the Californian and Oregon coasts each winter, the national media only covers the one-time crushing of a coastal neighborhood by a debris flowing and not the ongoing loss of a road, a house, or a life that takes place in numerous individual events along the entire Pacific Coast each winter. Finally, the medial pays far too little attention to the interaction of natural and human systems that cause people to unnecessarily expose themselves to coastal hazards and to be poorly prepared for coastal disasters.
People often live at and visit coastal areas because they are some of the most beautiful, diverse, and dynamic environments on earth. Coastal areas, however, frequently owe much of their beauty and natural diversity to active global, regional, and local geologic and meteorological processes. These processes operate over a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Most coastal residents and visitors probably donÕt notice that the ocean and wind shape and reshape most shorelines on a daily basis. Periodically, however, a coastline will be subjected to as much energy as the physical world can muster; then the changes to the coast are clearly evident-and newsworthy. While perhaps hurricanes come to mind when most people think about high-energy coastal events, coastal areas are also disproportionately subject to earthquakes and volcanoes. Moreover, while tropical cyclones might get most of the press coverage, extra-tropical cyclones (norÕeasters in these parts) can exert a tremendous amount of destructive force across a very long stretch of coastline. We should also remember that tsunamis can strike in many parts of the world with little warning. Finally, coastal areas are also commonly sites for landslides, flooding, and, of course, erosion.