Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Dynamics of Oceans and Atmosphere

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Geosciences

DESCRIPTION This study-unit introduces the students to the principles of fluid dynamics in the context of geophysical processes pertaining to the motion of the atmosphere and the oceans on a rotating earth.

The unit is divided into three main components: (i) fluid dynamics in a rotating frame of reference; (ii) application in physical oceanography, and (iii) application in atmospheric studies. The unit builds on geostrophic balance and friction in a rotating reference frame; the effects of vertical stratification in atmosphere and oceans; turbulent motion; expression and solution of the geophysical fluid dynamics equations for both atmospheric and oceanic systems.

Study-unit Aims:

The study-unit aims to provide the students with a sound theoretical understanding of the dynamics of the Earth's oceans and atmosphere and their circulation patterns, through the principles of fluid dynamics on a rotating earth. It will familiarize the students with the relevant sets of equations, and instil the confidence to interpret and use these equations in a meaningful way. Students will appreciate the differences between, as well as the common principles underlying the dynamics of oceans and the atmosphere.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- reproduce the mathematical concepts of GFD and the governing equations;
- review the importance of rotation and stratification on fluid flows;
- explain the atmospheric and ocean general circulations;
- review and apply the basic concepts underlying the physical characteristics and dynamic behavior of the oceans with appropriate mathematical description;
- evaluate linkages to the other components of the marine ecosystem;
- assess the available technologies to observe the sea and methods of interpretations;
- review the various interactions associated with the earth-climate system;
- choose the most appropriate parameterizations available within climate models according to specific regions or climate phenomena;
- argue the various limitations presented with the use of parameterizations;
- discuss the theoretical implications associated with the most important parameterizations;
- identify climate models' limitations related either to specific region characteristics or to dynamic downscaling issues;
- distinguish between the well characterized and the more complex aerosol-cloud interactions;
- set up a climate model based on region and other atmospheric dynamics considerations.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- apply the mathematical concepts to simple codes/scripts to visualize certain phenomena;
- review the instabilities of rotating stratified flows;
- discuss the generalization of non-geostrophic flows;
- quantitative understanding of the basic physical laws applied to the ocean continuum;
- recall the basic literature referring to the marine physical environment;
- interpret data and information sources on physical oceanography;
- apply high level tools for the scientific presentation and interpretation of oceanographic data;
- apply theory of GFD to correct choice of parameterizations needed for climate model setups;
- characterise complexity of the earth-climate system and use the acquired knowledge to correctly set adequate climate model formulations;
- identify limitations of various parameterizations available in climate models and formulate bias analysis associated with model results.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- GK Vallis. (2006). Atmospheric and Oceanic Fluid Dynamics: Fundamentals and Large-scale Circulation.
- B. Cushman-Roisin and JM Beckers. (2011). Introduction to Geophysical Fluid Dynamics: Physical and Numerical Aspects. Academic Press.
- JC McWilliams. (2011). Fundamentals of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics. Cambridge University Press.
- J Pedlosky. (2008). Geophysical Fluid Dynamics. Springer.
- Brown, Evelyn, Angela Colling et al. (Open Unviersity) (1995) Seawater: its composition, properties and behaviour. Butterworth-Heinemann.
- Brown, Joan, Angela Colling et al. (Open University) (1989) Ocean Circulation. Butterworth-Heinemann.
- Brown, Joan, Angela Colling et al. (Open University) (1989) Waves, Tides and Shallow-Water Processes. Butterworth-Heinemann.

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-Requisite qualifications: Good knowledge of mathematics

Pre-Requisite Study-units: GSC1200, PHY3225

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Tutorial

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Classwork SEM2 No 15%
Examination (3 Hours) SEM2 Yes 85%
Important - Due to the COVID19 Pandemic the information regarding the method of assessment indicated above may have been changed. Further details have been provided by your F/I/C/S.

LECTURER/S Noel Aquilina
Aldo Drago
Anthony Galea

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2019/0, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.