Announcing a new course in Geology and Geophysics:

Data Analysis for Earth Scientists

Gridding data with large unconstrained regions can cause problems. There are several techniques that can be used in GMT; this example illustrates some of them. Lower left panel shows contours of the surface generated with nearneighbor based on available ship bathymetry. Being a local procedure it will not extrapolate the surface far away from the control data. surface, on the other hand (lower right), will. One can deal with this by either imposing a clip mask based on the data distribution (upper left), or simply overlay the continents to mask out the unwanted contours. [Example courtesy of Paul Wessel and Walter Smith, using the GMT software,]

Kurt Feigl
Associate Professor
Department of Geology and Geophysics

Description of Course

Capsule statement of course

Fundamentals of data analysis for earth sciences with emphasis on practical applications using high-level computer programming languages: matrix algebra, least squares, Gaussian statistics, gridding, cartographic projections, spectral analysis.  





Number:  two (2)
(2 hours of lecture per week) x (15 weeks) = 30 hours of instruction


See list of lectures.


Increasingly, Geology and Geophysics are quantitative disciplines requiring the use of computers and sophisticated software to compile, analyze and assess large data sets.


The proposed new course is complementary to, but distinct from, the following other courses:


YES, The proposed course 402 would count towards the 34 credits of course work in Geology and Geophysics required for the major. It would also count toward the requirement of 12-15 credits of upper-level course work.


Learning Objectives

How will students be evaluated?


Required Textbook

Trauth, M. H. (2006). MATLAB® recipes for earth sciences: Recipes for Data Analysis
Springer-Verlag GmbH,
288 pages. Includes CD-ROM with Matlab scripts and examples.
Hardcover. $70 list, $45 used.
Ordered at University Bookstore, August 2007.

Recommended Textbooks

Although no single text book covers all the topics, the following books are excellent references that will serve you well throughout your career. I would recommend purchasing at least one, and reading sections from the others, on line or on reserve in the library. Be aware, though, that the tone, style and itended audience varies widely between these books. Accordingly, they are listed below in random order.

Fundamentals of Structural Geology

by David D. Pollard and Raymond C. Fletcher
Published by Cambridge University Press 2005
Hardback, 503 pages
ISBN-10: 052183927,
ISBN-13: 9780521839273

Numerical Recipes in C Numerical Recipes in C

Numerical Recipes in Fortran Numerical Recipes in Fortran 77

Volume 1 of Numerical Recipes in Fortran
Adobe Acrobat ® version

Numerical Recipes in Fortran Numerical Recipes in Fortran 90

Volume 2 of Numerical Recipes in Fortran
Adobe Acrobat ® version

Aster, R. C., C. H. Thurber, and B. Borchers (2005), Parameter estimation and inverse problems, xii, 301 p. pp., Elsevier Academic Press, Amsterdam ; Boston

Menke, W. (1989), Geophysical data analysis: discrete inverse theory, revised ed., 289 pp., Academic Press, San Diego.

Bevington, P. R. (1969), Data reduction and error analysis for the physical sciences, xv, 336 p. pp., McGraw-Hill, New York.

Bevington, P. R., and D. K. Robinson (1992), Data reduction and error analysis for the physical sciences, 2nd ed., xvii, 328 p. pp., McGraw-Hill, New York.

Nelson, S. L. (2007), Excel 2007 Data Analysis For Dummies

ISBN: 978-0-470-04599-2
 * Shows ordinary users how to tap the rich data analysis functionality of Excel, make sense of their organization’s critical financial and statistical information, and put together compelling data presentations
    * Now revised with over 30 percent new content to cover the enhancements in Excel 2007, including the completely redesigned user interface, augmented charting and PivotTable capabilities, improved security, and better data exchange through XML
    * Provides thorough coverage of Excel features that are critical to data analysis–working with external databases, creating PivotTables and PivotCharts, using Excel statistical and financial functions, sharing data, harnessing the Solver, taking advantage of the Small Business Finance Manager, and more

Davis, J. C. (2002). Statistics and data analysis in geology. New York Chichester, Wiley.


MATLAB: An Introduction with Applications, 2nd Edition
Amos Gilat ISBN: 978-0-471-69420-5
Paperback 352 pages
July 2004

Strang, G. and K. Borre (1997). Linear algebra, geodesy, and GPS. Wellesley, MA, Wellesley-Cambridge Press.



Week 1 & 2: Review of Linear Matrix Algebra

Week 3 & 4: Fitting a straight line to 1-D data

Week 5 & 6: Cartogographic Projections

Weeks 7, 8, and 9: Fitting a surface to 2-D data  

Week 10, 11, and 12: Digital Image Processing

Week 13: Frequency

Weeks 14 & 15: Velocity FieldsAbsolute and relative Velocity Fields

* Readings on Learn@UW and/or Library Reserve


If you are an undergraduate student, please register for:

(376) Topics in Geology
Session        A1 
Lecture        LEC 1
Data Analysis for Earth Scientists
Class Number   35692 
Entry in Official Timetable

If you are a graduate student, please register for:

(875) Topics in Geology
Session        A1 
Lecture        SEM 2 
Data Analysis for Earth Scientists
Class Number   41369  
Entry in Official Time Table



Students with access to CAE

Students with access to Geology and Geophysics computers

Student Version

Mathworks MATLAB 7 Student Version R14 with Service Pack 3 (Student Sales Only) for Mac/Linux/Win CD. License Valid as long as the Student is a registered Student in a Degree-Granting Institution.

Computer Programs and Scripts

Geodesy and Linear (Matrix) Algebra [Strang and Borre]

Matlab scripts at

Structural Geology [Pollard and Fletcher]

Matlab scripts at

Numerical Recipes [Press et al.] Fortran and C source code programs

Numerical Recipes: The Art of Scientific Computing" is the title of a series of books developed by Numerical Recipes Software and published by  Cambridge University Press. "Numerical Recipes" also refers to the copyrighted computer software that is in those books, and also sold separately, and is the trademark for that software. "NR" and "" are also trademarks of Numerical Recipes software. The books and software are available in a variety of computer languages, notably C++, C, and Fortran (77 and 90), but also versions in other computer languages. The C++, C, and Fortran versions contain about 350 separate routines for scientific computing.

available for purchase at

listed at

Geophysica [Witten]

Witten, A. (2002), Geophysica: MATLAB-based software for the simulation, display and processing of near-surface geophysical data, Computers & Geosciences, 28, 751-762.

A MATLAB-based computer code has been developed for the simulation and processing of near-surface geophysical data. The methods considered include: seismic reflection and refraction, ground penetrating radar, magnetometry, electromagnetic induction, gravity, and electrical resistivity. The primary motivation for this effort is to support the teaching of near-surface geophysics; however, the code can also be used as a tool to design field surveys and to display and process actual data. The complete code is a sequence of “m-files” and, as such, it is easily modified or extended to suit the needs of other users.

Matlab scripts at

3-D viewer [Witten]

Witten, A. (2004), A MATLAB-based three-dimensional viewer Computers & Geosciences, 30, 693-703.

Rarely is subsurface structure one- or two-dimensional and interpretation of information derived from geologic mapping, well logs, and geophysical measurements can be enhanced when viewed in three dimensions with proper perspective. A MATLAB-based three-dimensional viewer is presented that allows the display of the three-dimensional volume as user-selected orthogonal slices, rendering of the entire volume with chair cuts, and the display of bounding surfaces in three dimensions.

Matlab scripts at

M_MAP [Pawlowicz]

Pawlowicz, R. (2007). " M_Map: A mapping package for Matlab."

You have collected your data, loaded it into Matlab , analyzed everything to death, and now you want to make a simple map showing how it relates to the world. But you can't. Instead you have to figure out how to save all your data, and then read it into another program (like, for example GMT ), and then spend all that extra time figuring out why it doesn't give you what you expected it would...or you can invest in Matlab's own mapping toolbox (with a similarly steep learning curve)... or not!


Google Earth Plus

Intended for personal use, Google Earth Plus is an optional, upgraded version of Google Earth available for $20. Why buy it? In addition to the basic features, Google Earth Plus includes:
To purchase Google Earth Plus, download Google Earth at . Then run Google Earth and select "upgrade" from the "help" menu.

Excel or equivalent

For manipulating data tables in Comma-Separated Values (CSV) format.

ARC GIS (optional)

Student license $100

Computer Hardware


Will be required for homework.

Data Sets