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Description: Introduces descriptive and dynamical physical oceanography, focusing on the nature and dynamics of ocean currents and their role in the distribution of heat and other aspects of ocean physics related to the Earth’s climate. Dynamical material limited to mathematical descriptions of oceanic physical systems. *

* This description is a little outdated, but changing an official course description in the University Catalog requires all but an act of congress.

A more apt description of Descriptive Physical Oceanography, Spring 2021: Do you know why the Gulf Stream flows northward? Are you sure? This course will focus around a small number of core concepts in physical oceanography: (1) vertical stratification, (2) upwelling systems such as the California Current System, (3) large-scale gyre circulations including the Gulf Stream, (4) the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), (5) planetary waves, (6) the equatorial circulation, and (7) sea level rise. The emphasis will be on describing these tangible phenomena and the forces that sustain them rather than a deep mathematical treatment of their dynamics. Many of these important concepts transcend physical oceanography, especially into the atmospheric and climate sciences.

Prerequisites: ATOC 3070, 3600, 4200, 4720, 4730, or ATOC major. One semester of calculus.

General plan: The semester will be organized around seven biweekly (every two weeks) units on each topic. Each unit will include a series of lectures, reading and discussion of a cutting-edge research article, and a small group project analyzing real-world oceanographic data. Assigned journal articles emphasize physical aspects of how the ocean is changing.