SIO 210 for Climate Science Policy MAS program: Introduction to Physical Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California San Diego

Fall 2016

Instructor: Lynne Talley
TA: Weijie Wang (course tutorials and lab experiments)

Time: Monday, Wednesday 10:30-11:50; tutorials likely Friday 10:30-11:50

Location: Nierenberg Hall 101

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. Admission to one of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Master's programs, or consent of the instructor. Since math courses might have been taken many years ago for some students, please check this math concept link. Math tutorials are available through the PhD program SIO 210 course 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 standard SIO210 (afternoon 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: Advection/mixing, isopycnals surfaces (Dynamics I Advection/Transports/Budgets)
Oct. 12: Momentum, velocity, energy (Dynamics II Equations of motion, non-rotating)
Oct. 17: Forcings and Atmospheric circulation
Oct. 19: Coriolis effects (inertial, Ekman, and geostrophic) (Dynamics III and IV: Rotation) and Dynamics V: Ekman layers
Oct. 24: Upper ocean circulation (slides 1-7) and Pacific Ocean and Atlantic, Indian upper ocean circulation
Oct. 26: Variation of Coriolis and circulation (Dynamics VII: Sverdrup balance, western boundary currents)
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 (Talley lecture)
Nov. 14: Tides (Talley lecture)
Nov. 16 (move to Nov. 18): Atlantic Ocean deep circulation; and Dynamics X: Thermohaline circulation
Nov. 21: Southern Ocean circulation
Nov. 23: Global circulation
Nov. 28: Natural climate variability and the oceans
Nov. 30: Climate change and the oceans,using IPCC WGI chapter readings and figures.
Dec. 9: Final exam (9-12) (rescheduled from the assigned 8-11 AM)


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 CSP, due Oct. 31

Problem Set 3, due Nov. 21

Problem Set 4: will not be assigned. For 2015 Problem Set 4 for practice for exam, click here.

Graded final exams will be available in Nierenberg Hall (Tomomi Ushii x49696)

Data project or tank experiment.

Oct. 24: topic due (very short)
Nov. 21: JOA project due
Tank experiments ongoing.

Choose between:

  • (1) Climate data project using a server such as or NCEP Correlation analysis site
  • (2) Ocean 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

    Tutorials: times suggested, to be finalized on first day of class

    Course material tutorials
    Friday 2:30-3:30 Vaughan 300 (Shantong Sun)

    Math tutorial (click this link to look at list of math concepts):
    Friday 1:30-2:30, Vaughan 100. (Shantong Sun)
    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)

    Previous exams (from main section of SIO 210)

    Primary texts - online

    Other relevant texts

    Useful for everyone:

    Introductory level:

    IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) materials for end of course

    Other online resources

    Contact Information

    Lynne Talley; Nierenberg Hall 307; 534-6610 Home Page ltalley at
    Weijie Wang, Teaching Assistant; wew052 at
    Jim Swift (if there is a JOA project); 57 Deep Sea Drilling West ; 534-3387 jswift at
    Last modified: 30 Nov. 2016