ENVS 312/PHYS 314: Ocean-Atmosphere Dynamics

ENVS 312/PHYS 314: Ocean-Atmosphere Dynamics and Implications for Future Climate Change: Spring 2013.

Syllabus (Spring 2013):

This course covers the fundamentals of atmosphere and ocean dynamics, and aims to put these in the context of climate change in the 21st century. The lectures will focus on the physical mechanisms responsible for the global energy balance and large-scale atmospheric and oceanic circulation. We will introduce fundamental concepts of fluid dynamics and we will apply these to the vertical and horizontal motions in the atmosphere and ocean. Fundamental concepts covered include: hydrostatic law, buoyancy and convection, basic equations of fluid motions, flow on a rotating planet, Hadley and Ferrel cells in the atmosphere, Walker circulation, thermohaline circulation, modes of climate variability (El-Nino, North Atlantic Oscillation, Southern Annular Mode), wind driven ocean circulation, turbulent flow.

Aimed at undergraduate and graduate students who have no prior knowledge of meteorology or oceanography or training in fluid mechanics. This is a general course, which spans many sub-disciplines: fluid mechanics, atmospheric science, oceanography, hydrology. The course will include sessions in which students will learn how to write and run simple MATLAB programs to study the climate system. Computer related assignments will enhance the learning of the class material. No prior MATLAB experience needed. Prerequisites: Math 114 or instructor permission”

Part 1. Energy and Water Balance:

Lecture 1: Introduction: The greenhouse effect.
Lecture 2: Global Energy balance. Part 1
MATLAB Labs 1-2-3. Your first simple climate model.
Lecture 3: Fluid properties and the global hydrologic cycle
Lecture 4: Global Energy balance. Part 2

Part 2. Atmospheric Dynamics and the Equations of Fluid Motion:

Lecture 5: Math/physics review
Lecture 6: The vertical structure of the atmosphere and ocean
Lecture 7: Convection in the atmosphere and ocean
Lecture 8: Horizontal Motion in the Atmosphere
Lecture 9: Coriolis force and Large-scale Dynamics of the atmosphere
Lecture 10: Equations of fluid motion: Momentum Equations
Lecture 11: Scaling the Equations of motion: dimensional analysis
Lecture 12: Equations of fluid motion: Continuity and Thermodynamic Equation

Part 3. Ocean Dynamics:

Lecture 13: Intro to the Oceans: T, S, density and thermohaline circulation
Lecture 14: Geostrophy in the ocean, barotropic and baroclinic flows
Lecture 15: Wind driven ocean circulation. Why are there gyres in the ocean?
MATLAB Labs 4-5: How diffusion drives the temperature distribution in the ocean Lecture 16: Vorticity and Western Boundary Currents; Stommel circulation and Sverdrup flow.
Lecture 17: Modes of Climate Variability: Ocean-atmosphere interaction.
MATLAB Labs 6-7: The Gyre Circulation
Lectures 18-19: Student oral presentations. How will the atmosphere and ocean change with climate change? IPCC projections.
Lecture 20: Summary and Where do we go from here?

General Goals for this course:

  • For students to learn basic atmosphere and ocean dynamics, in order to be able to understand fundamental climatic processes and future changes.
  • To deepen your insights into methods of scientific inquiry. To improve your math and scientific skills, teach you basic modeling in MATLAB.
  • To give you a sense of the incompleteness of our understanding of the climate system and acquaint you with major areas of inquiry, which you might want to pursue later.
  • To get you excited about the field of climate science. More researchers are needed in this field. Great graduate school and job opportunities are out there!