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Fluid Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans



Course format On-site
Date 2020-08-18 - 2020-11-26
Entry level Bachelor

Course content

The course gives the basic theory for the large-scale dynamics of atmospheres and oceans and provides the foundation for more specialized studies of atmosphere and ocean dynamics. The course includes the fundamental equations for atmosphere and ocean fluid dynamics, the effects of rotation and stratification, the beta-plan approximation, the Boussinesq and anelastic equations, scaling relevant for the Earth atmosphere and ocean circulations, the Rossby number, static instability and gravity waves, the Ekman layer, the shallow-water approximation and its wave solutions, available potential energy, vorticity, potential vorticity, the circulation theorems, Rossby waves and barotropic and baroclinic instability.


Admission requirements are a Bachelors degree in physics or similar education, including specialization in physics worth the equivalent of not less than 80 ECTS credits. Local admission, application code 9371 - singular courses at Master's level.  

Recommended prerequisites

FYS-1001 Mechanics, FYS-2001 Statistical physics and Thermodynamics, FYS-2018 Global climate change, MAT-1003 Calculus 3, MAT-2200 Differential Equations

Learning outcomes

Knowledge - The student can

  • identify the basic equations relevant for the circulation in the atmosphere and ocean
  • describe the concept and the characteristics of constant density, barotropic and baroclinic fluids
  • explain the implication on a fluid by rotation, and describe the concept of an f-plane and beta-plane
  • explain the advantages and limitations of the Boussinesq and anelastic approximations, and describe the reasons for, and implications of the density variations in the Earth's atmosphere and ocean
  • describe the concept of thermal-wind balance
  • explain the role of static stability and instability and its implications for gravity and acoustic waves
  • describe the advantages and the limitations of the shallow-water approximation
  • identify wave solution to the shallow-water equations such as Kelvin and Poincaré waves
  • explain the Kelvin theorem and the concept of vorticity and potential vorticity
  • describe the quasi-geostrophic approximation and identify its Rossby wave solution
  • explain barotropic and baroclinic instability

Skills - The student can

  • solve basic problems within atmosphere and ocean fluid dynamics
  • apply appropriate scaling of equations associated with atmosphere and ocean fluid dynamical problems

General competence - The student can

  • incorporate current knowledge and new scientific information into critical thinking
  • communicate theories, problem descriptions and solutions


ISCED Categories

Physical and chemical oceanography