Course description

What do landslides in Brazil droughts in California mass migration in Syria and the collapse of Mayan civilization all have in common? Water. This course introduces students to the terrestrial water cycle how it works how humans manipulate it and how it manipulates us. Students learn about the major components of the terrestrial water cycle including precipitation evapotranspiration runoff and streamflow and saturated and unsaturated subsurface flow. They also learn about the causes and consequences of natural hazards associated with the water cycleóincluding floods landslides and droughtsóand examine several case studies with a focus on human impacts. The course considers how the water cycle has contributed to the demise of past civilizations and explores implications for modern society in a warming world.


  • Assistant Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and of Environmental Science, Harvard University

Associated Schools

  • Harvard Division of Continuing Education

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