SIOC 210  

SIOC 210: Introduction to Physical Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California San Diego

Fall 2019

Instructor: Lynne Talley
Teaching Assistant: Ray (Jiarui) Shi
Instructor for JOA projects: Jim Swift
Math tutorials: Channing Prend and Paul Chamberlain

Class time: Tuesday, Thursday 11:00-12:20 Eckart 227

Tutorials: Wednesday 2-3; Friday 10:50-12:00, Eckart 236
Math Tutorial:Tuesday 4-5 PM, Eckart 227

Equatorial Pacific SST, courtesy of NOAA

Course Overview

Physical description of the sea; physical properties of seawater, methods and measurements, boundary processes, regional oceanography.

Prerequisites: the mathematics (calculus) and physics required for admission to the graduate curriculum in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, or consent of the instructor. Since math courses might have been taken many years ago for some students, please check this math concept link, and attend the math tutorials if you want a refresher.

The course url is The notes and figures are background for the coursework. They are evolving and informal. They may not be used for other purposes without permission. Figures from copyrighted sources include the reference.

UCSD Canvas Site for SIOC 210

Powerpoints of the current lectures will be linked just before class; old versions will be available prior to that

Sept. 26: Introduction, scales of motion
Oct. 1: Physical Properties of Seawater I
Oct. 3: Physical Properties of Seawater II
Oct. 8: Observational tools and Data analysis methods
Oct. 10: Typical property distributions, water masses
Oct. 15: Dynamics I Advection/Transports/Budgets
Oct. 17: Dynamics II Equations of motion, non-rotating
Oct. 22: Dynamics III: Rotation
Oct. 24: Dynamics IV: Geostrophy and Kuroshio
Oct. 29: Dynamics V: Friction, Ekman layers and Atmospheric circulation
Oct. 31: Mid-term (in-class) (Through Oct. 23 material)
Nov. 5: Dynamics VI: Potential vorticity, Rossby waves, eddies (S. Purkey, instructor)
Nov. 7: Dynamics VII: Sverdrup balance, western boundary currents (S. Purkey, instructor)
Nov. 12 Finish wind-driven circulation: Pacific Ocean circulation II (gyres) and Global upper ocean circulation (slides 1-7)
Nov. 14: Waves and Tides
Nov. 19: Eastern boundary currents; and Dynamics VIII: eastern boundary currents and start
Equatorial circulation and ENSO; and Dynamics IX: Equatorial circulation and ocean-atmosphere feedbacks
Nov. 21: Atlantic, Indian upper ocean circulation;
Nov. 26: Atlantic Ocean deep circulation; and Dynamics X: Thermohaline circulation
Nov. 28: Thanksgiving holiday
Dec. 3: Southern Ocean circulation and Global circulation
Dec. 5: Climate and the oceans
Dec. 11: Final exam (11:30-2:30) Eckart 227


Links are live when Problem Sets are assigned

Problem sets will be assigned every 2 weeks, skipping weeks of the mid-term and paper/project due date.
Problem Set due dates: Oct. 10, Oct. 24, Nov. 19, Dec. 5

Problem Set 1, Due Oct. 10
Problem Set 1 Answer Key

Problem Set 2, due Oct. 24
Problem Set 2 Answer Key

SIO210_ProblemSet3_preliminary_24oct2019_answerkey.pdf for use in studying for mid-term

Problem Set 3, due Nov. 21
Problem Set 3 Answer Key

Problem Set 4, due Dec. 6 (or 11)

Short paper, data project using JOA, or tank experiment.

Oct. 24: Data or paper topic due (very brief description)
Nov. 26: Data project or paper due
Tank experiments ongoing: Oct. 17, Oct 24, Nov. 7, Nov. 14, Nov. 21, Dec. 3

Choose between:

  • (1) Review of a pair of published papers (written report),
    Guidelines for paper.
  • (2) Data project using Java Ocean Atlas, with Jim Swift (individual or group presentation, written report).
    Letter from Jim Swift regarding JOA.
    Some example reports from previous years
  • (3) Tank experiment (group presentation, written report).
    Guidelines (2019) for tank experiments
    The accompanying textbook is
    Marshall, J. and Plumb, R. A., 2007. Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics: An Introductory Text, Elsevier


    Course material tutorials (Ray Shi, TA)
    Wednesday 2-3 PM, Eckart 236
    Friday 10:50-12, Eckart 236

    Math tutorial (click this link to look at list of math concepts):
    Tuesday 4-5, Eckart 227
    Useful math link: Wolfram MathWorld
    Any basic calculus textbook is helpful. Wikipedia is surprisingly good for calculus as well.


    Percentages: Final exam (40), mid-term exam (20), project/paper (12), each of 4 assignments (7)

    Mid-term answer key (updated Nov. 12 16:39 PM)
    Final exam answer key

    Previous exams

    Primary texts - online

    Other relevant texts

    Useful for everyone:
    • Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics: an Introductory Text by John Marshall and R. Alan Plumb, Elsevier, 2007. (For all tank experiment groups.)

    Introductory level:

    • Ocean Circulation. Open University Press, Pergamon.
    • Invitation to Oceanography by Paul Pinet, Jones and Bartlett Learning, 2011. Online study tools.
    • UCAR MetEd online course, including unit on currents. You will have to register, but it's free.

    More advanced dynamical treatments:

    Other online resources

    Contact Information

    Lynne Talley; Nierenberg Hall 307; 858-534-6610 Home Page ltalley at
    Jim Swift (JOA projects); 57 Deep Sea Drilling West ; 858-534-3387 jswift at
    Ray (Jiarui) Shi, Teaching Assistant; MESOM 310; 858-822-3759; jis190 at
    Channing Prend, Math tutorials; Nierenberg Hall 309; cprend at
    Paul Chamberlain, Math tutorials; Nierenberg Hal 306; pchamber at
    Last modified: 17 Dec. 2019