Physical and Dynamical Oceanography


Bohua Huang

Climate Dynamics Program
Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences
George Mason University

Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies (COLA)

Phone: 301-902-1246

Summary Requirement Major Topics
Course Outline

Course Summary

CLIM712 gives an introduction to the climatology of the world ocean circulation and its associated physical and dynamical processes. It starts from a discussion of the physical properties of seawater and a description of the three-dimensional structures of the observed oceanic temperature and salinity distribution as well as its major seasonal and interannual variability. Then, the heat and salt budgets of the world oceans are examined, with emphasis on the physical processes that are responsible for the heat and freshwater exchanges with the atmosphere. Some general principles and basic concepts of ocean dynamics are introduced. These principles are applied to understand the patterns of the large-scale circulation of the ocean, including the wind-driven circulation and thermohaline circulation. The special topics include the formation of western boundary currents (such as the Gulf Stream), ocean wave dynamics, and the role of turbulent mixing within the ocean.

Overall, this course provides background knowledge of the world oceans that are useful to students in physical oceanography, meteorology, and climate studies.

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Course Requirement

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Major Topics

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Course References

Text books:

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Useful Websites for Physical Oceanography Courses

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Course Outline

Properties of seawater [Des 2, 3, 6]
  1. Composition
  2. Equation of state
  3. Measurement: T, S, pressure
Global T-S distribution [Des 4 ]
  1. Surface profiles
  2. Vertical profiles
  3. Static stability
  4. Annual cycle and interannual variability
T-S Forcing and conservation laws [Des 5]
  1. heat flux components
  2. heat flux distribution
  3. evaporation, precipitation, runoff
  4. box models
Fluid dynamics on rotating sphere [Dyn 6, 8, 9.1-9.4]
  1. Coriolis force
  2. equations of motion
  3. geostrophy
  4. Ekman layers
Description of large-scale gyres [Des 7]
  1. wind patterns and gyres
  2. western and eastern boundary currents
  3. polar currents
  4. equatorial currents
Barotropic dynamics of large-scale gyres [Dyn 9.5-9.14]
  1. vorticity dynamics
  2. gyres and western boundary currents
  3. Sverdrup, Stommel, and Munk
Mixing, turbulence, surface layer [supplied reading]
  1. descriptive Kelvin-Helmholtz instability
  2. surface mixed layer dynamics
  3. sources of subsurface mixing
Large-scale overturning [supplied reading]
  1. thermohaline structure and meridional overturning
  2. advective-diffusive balance and overturning
  3. Stommel-Arons patterns
  4. subduction and shallow cells
Surface gravity waves (nonrotating and rotating) [Dyn 12.1-12.8, 12.10.1-12.10.3]
  1. short and long nonrotating SGWs
  2. Poincare and Kelvin waves
  3. nonlinear effects
Tides [Dyn 13.1-13.7]
  1. tidal forcing
  2. equilibrium theory
  3. forced response
Internal gravity waves [Dyn 12.9]
  1. two-layer fluid
  2. rotational effects
  3. continuous fluid
Rossby waves, instability and mesoscale eddies [supplied reading]
  1. Rossby wave dynamics
  2. observations of eddies
Coastal processes: currents, fronts, estuaries [Des 8]

El Nino [supplied reading]
  1. air-sea feedbacks
  2. equatorial waveguide
  3. ENSO description

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