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OCE/MPO 603: Introduction to Physical Oceanography

Fall 2018

Instructor: Lisa Beal

Time: Tuesday & Thursday
                  10:30 am - 11:45 am

Location: MSC 343

beal lab

Course Overview

Application of the laws of physics to the study of the properties and circulation of the world’s oceans. Physical description of the sea; physical properties of sea water; forcing and the equations of motion; boundary processes; waves; thermohaline circulation; variability; instrumentation and observation.

Prerequisites: the mathematics and physics required for admission to the graduate curriculum at RSMAS, or consent of the instructor. It will be assumed that you know Newton’s 3 Laws, linear and angular momentum conservation, derivatives and partial derivatives, integrals, scalars and vectors, gradient, divergence, and curl.

The course url is The syllabus is outlined here with links to PowerPoint presentations and notes.

Course requirements: Two graded exams, midterm (25%) and final (45%); One written report/project (30%). Study questions are provided weekly and solutions led and discussed by YOU during class.
Click here for details of the project .

Recommended Books

Introduction to Physical Oceanography by Robert Stewart (RS). This is an online text, which includes a printable PDF and cover. The PDF version is September 2008. The HTML version has some errors (information from R. Stewart), but may be updated more often.

Descriptive Physical Oceanography: An Introduction by Lynne Talley et al. (LT). New text in 2014. On reserve at RSMAS library.

Introduction to Physical Oceanography by John Knauss (JK). On reserve in library and stocked at UM bookshop.

Other Books and Further Reading

Introductory Dynamical Oceanography by Pond and Pickard (referred to as PP in notes).
Ocean Circulation by Open University team ( OU)
Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics by Adrian Gill.


Course Outline

Lecture 13

Potential vorticity equation - concept of curl/spin/vorticity (PP9,JK5,RS12)

Lecture 14

The Sverdrup balance and gyre circulation (RS11,PP9,JK6)

Lecture 16

The Agulhas Current - a case study of a Western Boundary Current

Lecture 17

Upwelling - equatorial, coastal, and Antarctic (OU5,JK7,RS14)

Lecture 18

Wind-generated waves (PP12,JK9)

Lecture 19

Eddies and planetary waves (PP12,JK10,OU5)

Lecture 20

Water mass formation and mixing (RS13,PP10)

Lecture 21

Abyssal circulation (RS13,PP10,OU6)

Lecture 22

Thermohaline circulation and heat transport (RS13,OU6)

Lecture 23

Instrumentation and Experimentation