SIO 210: Introduction to Physical Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California San Diego

Fall 2016

Instructors: Lynne Talley and Myrl Hendershott
TA: Shantong Sun (course and Math tutorial)

Time: Monday, Wednesday 2:00-3:20; tutorials likely Friday 2:00-3:20

Location: Vaughan 100

Equatorial Pacific SST, courtesy of NOAA

UCSD TritonEd site for SIO 210

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.

For the SIO 210 Climate Science Policy (morning SIO210) website, Click Here.

Lecture links: until just prior to lecture, the link is likely to be the 2015 content

Sept. 26: Introduction, scales of motion and Physical Properties of Seawater I
Sept. 28: Physical Properties of Seawater II and III
Oct. 3: Observational tools and Data analysis methods
Oct. 5 (move to Oct. 7): Typical distributions I and II
Oct. 10: Dynamics I Advection/Transports/Budgets and Dynamics II Equations of motion, non-rotating
Oct. 12: Dynamics III: Rotation
Oct. 17: Dynamics IV: Geostrophy and Pacific Ocean circulation I (Kuroshio)
Oct. 19: Atmospheric circulation and Dynamics V: Friction, Ekman layers
Oct. 24: Dynamics VI: Potential vorticity, Rossby waves, eddies
Oct. 26: Dynamics VII: Sverdrup balance, western boundary currents and Pacific Ocean circulation II (gyres) and Global upper ocean circulation (slides 1-7)
Oct. 31: Mid-term (in-class)
Nov. 2: Eastern boundary currents; and Dynamics VIII: eastern boundary currents
Nov. 7: Equatorial circulation and ENSO; and Dynamics IX: Equatorial circulation and ocean-atmosphere feedbacks
Nov. 9: Waves
Nov. 14: Tsunamis
Nov. 16: Tides
Nov. 21: Atlantic, Indian upper ocean circulation;
Nov. 23: Atlantic Ocean deep circulation; and Dynamics X: Thermohaline circulation
Nov. 28: Southern Ocean circulation and Global circulation
Nov. 30: Global circulation (continued) and Climate and the oceans
Dec. 7: Final exam (3-6 PM)


Links will be available when Problem Sets are assigned

Problem Set 1, Due Oct. 17
Zipped SIO Pier water temperature data set, one file in csv format, water temperature in last column

Problem Set 2, due Oct. 31

Problem Set 3, due Nov. 21

Problem Set 4, due Dec. 5

Short paper, data project or tank experiment.

Oct. 24: topic due (very short)
Nov. 21: JOA 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.
  • (3) Tank experiment (group presentation, written report).
    Guidelines (2016) 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
    SIO210 AM CSP Friday 10:30-11:50 Vaughan 100 (Weijie Wang)
    SIO210 PM class Friday 1:00-2:00 Ritter 229 (Shantong Sun)

    Math tutorial (click this link to look at list of math concepts):
    Friday 2-3:20, Ritter 229. (Shantong Sun)
    Useful math link: Wolfram MathWorld
    Any basic calculus textbook is helpful. Wikipedia is surprisingly good for calculus as well.

    Tutorial Notes:
    Sept. 30 CSP: Tutorial 1 (W. Wang)


    Percentages: Final exam (40), mid-term exam (20), project/paper (12), each of 4 assignments (7)

    Previous exams

    Primary texts - online

    Other relevant texts

    Useful for everyone:

    Introductory level:

    More advanced dynamical treatments:

    Other online resources

    Contact Information

    Lynne Talley; Nierenberg Hall 307; 534-6610 Home Page ltalley at
    Myrl Hendershott; CCS Bldg 303; 534-3208 mhendershott at
    Jim Swift (JOA projects); 57 Deep Sea Drilling West ; 534-3387 jswift at
    Shantong Sun, Teaching Assistant; shs041 at
    Weijie Wang, Teaching Assistant for lab experiments; wew052 at
    Last modified: 19 Oct. 2016