SIO 210: Introduction to Physical Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California San Diego

Fall 2018

Instructor: Lynne Talley
Guest instructor: Jennifer Mackinnon
Teaching Assistant: Luke Kachelein
Instructor for JOA projects: Jim Swift
Math tutorials: Paul Chamberlain

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

Tutorials: Thursday 4-5PM Eckart 227; Friday 10:50-12:10 Eckart Sea Cave
Math Tutorial:TBD

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 TritonEd site for SIO 210

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

Sept. 27: Introduction, scales of motion and Physical Properties of Seawater I
Oct. 2: Physical Properties of Seawater II and III (continued to Oct. 4)
Oct. 4: Observational tools and Data analysis methods
Oct. 9: Typical property distributions, water masses
Oct. 11: Dynamics I Advection/Transports/Budgets
Oct. 16: Dynamics II Equations of motion, non-rotating
Oct. 18: Dynamics III: Rotation
Oct. 23: (Mackinnon) Waves, tides and Mixing I (2018 material)
Oct. 25: (Mackinnon) Waves, tides and Mixing II (2018 material)
Oct. 30: Dynamics IV: Geostrophy and Kuroshio
Nov. 1: Mid-term (in-class) (Through Oct. 25 material)
Nov. 6: Dynamics V: Friction, Ekman layers and Atmospheric circulation
Nov. 8: Dynamics VI: Potential vorticity, Rossby waves, eddies
Nov. 13: Dynamics VII: Sverdrup balance, western boundary currents and Pacific Ocean circulation II (gyres) and Global upper ocean circulation (slides 1-7)
Nov. 15: Eastern boundary currents; and Dynamics VIII: eastern boundary currents
Nov. 20: Equatorial circulation and ENSO; and Dynamics IX: Equatorial circulation and ocean-atmosphere feedbacks
Nov. 22: Thanksgiving holiday
Nov. 27: Atlantic, Indian upper ocean circulation;
Nov. 29: Atlantic Ocean deep circulation; and Dynamics X: Thermohaline circulation
Dec. 4: Southern Ocean circulation and Global circulation
Dec. 6: Climate and the oceans
Dec. 12: 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. 11, Oct. 25, Nov. 20, Dec. 12

Problem Set 1, Due Oct. 11 (updated with figures)
Problem Set 1 Answer Key

Problem Set 2, due Oct. 25
Problem Set 2 Answer Key

Problem Set 3, due Nov. 20 (pdf updated Nov. 15, high res figure)
Problem Set 3 Answer Key (updated Dec. 6, 2018 with corrected problem 3)

Problem Set 4, due Dec. 12 (or turn in by Dec. 6 to have it graded before exam)
Problem Set 4 Answer Key

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

Oct. 30: Data or paper topic due (very short)
Nov. 27: Data project or paper due
Tank experiments ongoing.

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 (2018) 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 (Luke Kachelein, TA)
    Thursday 4-5 PM Eckart 227
    Friday 10:50-12:10 Eckart Sea Cave

    Math tutorial (click this link to look at list of math concepts):
    Date and TA to be selected
    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
    Final exam answer key
    Previous exams

    Primary texts - online

    Other relevant texts

    Useful for everyone:

    Introductory level: