Physical Oceanography

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satellite image of a chlorophyl bloom in the Arabian Sea  
Satellite image of a chlorophyl bloom in the Arabian Sea.

The course gives an overview over physical properties, flows and transport phenomena in stratified water bodies (reservoirs, lakes and the oceans). The focus is the oceans, their currents and the role of the seas in the global climate system. Those completing the course are able to interpret basic flow equations and apply them to phenomema.


students are able to

  • apply the basic conservation principles of physics to stratified water.
  • apply and explain fundamental solutions of physical models characterising the flow in
    the ocean.
  • describe the transport mechanisms in stratified environmental flow systems.
  • describe and explain the large scale flow in the ocean and its role in the global climate


Dr. Matthias Münnich (MM)

Dr. Gian-Kasper Plattner (GKP)

Dr. Thomas Frölicher (TF)

Lectures and Tutorials

week lecture tutorial
1 Overview and Introduction  
2 Equation of State, Hydrostatic and Stratification Wiki & Matlab Introduction
3 Ocean Water Masses Set 1, Tutorial A
4 Mixing I: Viscosity and Diffusion, Transport Equations Set 1, Tutorial B
5 Mixing II: Turbulent Transport Set 2, Tutorial A
6 Meridional Overturning Circulation Set 2, Tutorial B
7 Biogeochemical Tracers in the Ocean Set 3, Tutorial A
8 Wind-driven Circulation 1: Momentum Equation; Geostrophy Set 3, Tutorial B
9 Wind-driven Circulation 2: Ekman Layer Sverdrup Transport Set 4, Tutorial A
10 Gulf Stream and Other Wind-driven Ocean Currents Set 4, Tutorial B
11 Water Waves Set 5, Tutorial A
12 Waves II, El Niño Set 5, Tutorial B
13 Ocean and the Climate System: The Past Set 6, Tutorial A
14 Ocean and the Climate System: The Future Set 6, Tutorial B

Online Resources

Moodle course material:
(Please register!)


  • 6 Problem sets. Envisioned time effort per problem set: 3h.
  • Please note: Some problem sets require a basic knowledge of Matlab.
  • The handing-in of a solution sheet is optional.
  • One point is awarded if a solution sheet shows a clear effort to solve all problems of a problem set.
  • While students are encouraged to work in groups to solve the problems, a student must have handed in his own solution sheet to be awarded a point.

Timeline for problem-sets

  • Tuesday 5pm: The problem-set is posted online in Moodle.
  • Wednesday 8–10am: Lecture on the topics of the problem-set.
  • Wednesday 1–2pm: Tutorial A: The assistant gives a short introduction to the problems. The remaining time is used to solve the problem set.
  • Tuesday noon: Deadline to hand in your solution attempt.
  • Tuesday 5pm: Solutions are posted on Moodle.
  • Wednesday 1–2pm: Tutorial B: Discussion of the solutions of the problem set. Each student can volunteer to present the solution of a problem to earn an additional point form the final grade.
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Tue Mar 28 15:13:18 CEST 2017
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