GLG490/598--Tectonic Geomorphology

Announcements Syllabus Schedule Weekly lecture notes Links



This class will teach students about the interactions between surface and tectonic processes that form the topography we see, and how we can interpret that topography to learn about earth processes. We will look at processes and features ranging from the large spatial scale orogenic systems and their geomorphology to individual fault zones, fault scarps, and stratigraphic evidence for earthquake surface rupture. This class is geared toward upper level undergraduate students and graduate students.

Course Plan

Mondays (2-4pm) and Tuesdays (1:30-2:30pm) each week
ISTB4-596 or 692 depending on availability

We will teach this at an advanced level, with the goal of guiding/facilitating students on a path of self-discovery – workshop style. The basic plan for how the course will run is this (and actually works best with a Mon-Tues schedule):

Generally, each new topic will begins with the second hour of the Monday meeting.

1. The second hour of each Monday will be a lecture on the underlying physics or principles of the next problem, process, or topic. Explaining equations and solidifying conceptual grasp of equations and principles, but sparse/bare essentials needed to get started.
2. Each Tuesday we will then introduce exercises and explain associated Matlab codes or other tools students will use in intuition-development exercises. Class time includes getting started on exercises, answering questions as initial problems pop up. Exercises will generally have two components: (a) general intuition development by exploring parameter space (guided) and (b) application of method/tools to case study(ies). We will work to keep these manageable. A few hours effort each is intended. Some topics will merit two weeks and exercises could be split in two: generic intuition development week 1, case study application week 2.
3. Weekly homework: Always due Monday at class time. ALL STUDENTS: Do the Lab exercise. ROTATING PAIR (scheduled in advance by sign-up calendar so all can plan): (1) Prepare written notes on Monday lecture and plan a 10 minute synopsis presentation (white board, not powerpoint), and prepare to lead a discussion on general lessons/intuition learned from the homework exercise (whiteboard sketches preferred). Written notes will be submitted Monday (to be edited by us and compiled for the class).
4. Each Monday (except first) starts with Rotating Pair synopsis presentation, followed by free-form discussion lead/moderated by us to explore/enhance depth of understanding. Then we will cap this by showing a couple classic case studies, re-inforcing and documenting intuition developed (First Hour).

Also, Weekly reading will include one topical journal article that will be discussed in the Thursday evening Surface Processes Seminar.

Kelin Whipple
Office hours: by appt.
Office #: 480-965-9508
Ramón Arrowsmith
Office hours: by appt.
Office #: 965-3541

Recommended Textbook: Tectonic Geomorphology, 2nd edition, by Burbank and Anderson; supplemented by handouts


The way to get a good grade in this course is consistent productivity. Don't miss any assignments, and keep up with the lectures, the labs, and the reading. If you have questions or difficulties, see Kelin or Ramón.

Academic Integrity Statement

Academic honesty is expected of all students in all examinations, papers, laboratory work, academic transactions and records. The possible sanctions include, but are not limited to, appropriate grade penalties, course failure (indicated on the transcript as a grade of E), course failure due to academic dishonesty (indicated on the transcript as a grade of XE), loss of registration privileges, disqualification and dismissal. For more information, see

Disability Policy Statement

An effort will be made to render this course fully accessible to all students. Qualified students with disabilities who will require disability accommodations in this class are encouraged to make their requests to me at the beginning of the semester either during office hours or by appointment. Note: Prior to receiving disability accommodations, verification of eligibility from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) is required. Students who feel they will need disability accommodations in this class but have not registered with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) should contact DRC immediately. Their office is located on the first floor of the Matthews Center Building. DRC staff can also be reached at: 480-965-1234 (V), 480-965-9000 (TTY). Their hours are 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Disability information is confidential. For additional information, visit:

GLG490/598--Tectonic Geomorphology

Last modified: Fall 2015