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GEOL0022 Ocean Physics and Climate Change

The module aims to describe and explain features of the ocean circulation that are important to the Earth's climate system using fundamental physical principle of mechanics and energy conservation.

Coordinator: Dr Michel Tsamados

Module details
TitleOcean Physics and Climate Change
UG CodeGEOL0022
CoordinatorDr Michel Tsamados
Other Contributors 
Term1
Credit15 credits
Written Exam80% unseen 2.5 hours exam
Coursework20% two problem sheets
Pre-RequisitesPHAS0002 Maths Methods I & PHAS0009 Maths Methods II
Maths & Stats Content and Requirement 
Total Number of Hours of Student Work188 hours
Hours of Lectures/Seminars12 hours
Hours of Practicals/Problem Classes28 hours
Hours of Tutorials0
Days of Fieldwork0
OtherNone
Content

The module aims to describe and explain features of the ocean circulation that are important to the Earth's climate system using fundamental physical principle of mechanics and energy conservation. The course will also include a brief introduction to visualisation and processing of reanalysis and satellite data with matlab/python. 

The structure of the course is as follows

I - Surface energy balance of the ocean 

The radiation budget of the ocean surface I;  The radiation budget of the ocean surface II ; Sensible and latent heat fluxes; The surface heat budget at tropical and mid latitudes ; Surface heat budget in polar oceans 

II - Mean oceanic circulation 

Forcing of the steady circulation; The pressure gradient; The Coriolis acceleration; Steady geostrophic flow; Barotropic and baroclonic motion; Dynamic topography and the 'level of no motion' I; Dynamic topography and the 'level of no motion' II; Gravity and altimetry (optional); Shear stress in the ocean; Ekman motion I; Ekman motion II: eddy viscosity; Ekman motion III: eddy viscosity; Ekman pumping; Ekman pumping and geostrophic motion; Upwelling at eastern basin margins; The mid-latitude gyres; Why we need the wind stress ?; The steady circulation and horizontal density gradients; Equation of state of sea water; The gulf stream; 

III - Unsteady motion: Waves 

Inertial motion; Free and forced unsteady motion; Gravity waves in a shallow non-rotating fluid; Barotropic and baroclinic modes; Gravity waves in a shallow rotating fluid (Poincaré waves); Kelvin waves; Storm surges; The equatorial Kelvin wave; El Nino; Energy spectrum of the Ocean; Buoyancy forcing; Static stability; 

IV - Water mass and the Thermohaline Circulation

Water masses I; Water masses II; Mixing of water masses; The thermohaline structure of the Atlantic I; The thermohaline structure of the Atlantic II; Role of sea ice in Arctic buoyancy forcing; The global thermohaline conveyer.

AIMS

The module aims to describe and explain features of the ocean circulation that are important to the Earth's climate system using fundamental physical principle of mechanics and energy conservation. Emphasis will be given to examples, taken from recent research highlights, of how climate change can affect properties of the Oceans. The course will also include a brief introduction to visualisation and processing of reanalysis and satellite data with matlab/python.

OUTCOMES

The module will develop the following skills:

  • basic understanding of the physical processes that control the ocean dynamics;
  • capacity to formulate various ocean and climate related problems (i.e. greenhouse effect, ocean dynamics, wave propagation, sea ice melt and growth) in simple mathematical form;
  • gain understanding of the ocean system, its response to climate change and the implications for human societies;
  • knowledge and practical application of data handling and visualisation techniques in the Earth sciences, specifically in polar oceanography.