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Physical Oceanography I



Course format On-site
Date 2020-08-31 - 2020-11-02
Cost 29 750 SEK

The course provides a basic introduction to the principles that govern the flow in the sea at different scales from the smallest turbulent vortices to the large-scale circulation in the oceans. A major emphasis is on describing various physical phenomena using quantitative mathematical tools. The course deals with the following elements: Basic properties of a fluid including the driving equations for mass conservation, momentum and energy, coordinate systems and effects of Earth rotation, the derivation of simplified sets of equation describing large-scale oceanic flows, and the description of geostrophic flows, thermal wind, frictional effects, and basic theory of wind-driven ocean gyres.


120 credits within natural science, including at least 15 credits in mathematics (calculus and linear algebra), is required.

Grant opportunities

EU/EEA citizens, Swedish residence permit holders and exchange students do not pay fees. More information on:

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of the course, the student is expected to be able to:

Knowledge and understanding

  • Describe how the physical properties of seawater influence oceanic flows
  • Define the different terms in the equations of fluid motions
  • Define the most important space and time scales for the different types of flow
  • Describe the basic physical balances of different idealized flow cases: Geostrophic flow and thermal wind, frictional boundary layers and the Sverdrup balance
  • Describe the driving and controlling mechanisms of the large-scale circulation in the sea and be able to describe some idealized models for ocean circulation

Competence and skills

  • Know the definition and relevance of the most important physical properties of seawater
  • Know the equations of fluid motion for a rotating fluid
  • Perform mathematical derivations and make calculations for some idealized flow cases
  • Derive the main characteristics of wind-driven flows in the ocean

Judgement and approach

  • Know how to apply fundamental principles of physics and mathematics to develop a quantitative understanding of ocean dynamics
  • Understand standard simplifications and common limitations that are often associated to studies of ocean processes
  • Apply and manipulate simple theories of the large-scale ocean circulation


ISCED Categories

Physical and chemical oceanography