Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Ocean Modelling

UM LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course



DEPARTMENT Geosciences

DESCRIPTION This study-unit deals with numerical modelling of the ocean, atmosphere (marine meteorology) and biogeochemical and ecological modelling.

The first part of this study-unit includes the basic fluid mechanics topics and later with further elaboration into the dynamical description and understanding of the oceans including the governing equations, geostrophic balance, the importance of friction and boundary layers, stability and mixing in the oceans.

The second part deals with the basics of numerical modelling and forecasting techniques applied to marine domains. The main emphasis in this part of the study-unit will be on the use of computer based models as a means to interpret, understand and predict the behaviour of the marine environment. Students will be introduced to diagnostics for model skill assessment and validation.

Moreover, the study-unit includes an introduction to atmospheric modelling (Marine Meteorology), biogeochemical and ecological modelling. The student will be introduced to the use of AI and machine learning in oceanography, particularly supervised and unsupervised classification methods, decision trees and Neural Networks.

Study-Unit Aims:

This study-unit is intended to give a handle to students on numerical modelling of the marine environment. The main aspects covered in this study-unit consist of:
(1) theoretical aspects of fluid mechanics; and
(2) key theoretical and practical aspects on numerical modelling and forecasting in oceanography.

Learning Outcomes:

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

- Identify the terms of the Navier-Stokes equations (governing equations);
- Explain the concepts of numerical modelling, the underlying principles for model setup and functioning, different kind of models, and their use in operational oceanography;
- Explain the difference between forecasts, now-casts, hindcasts and analyses runs;
- Distinguish between the main types of models used in oceanography and determine their applicability to the different cases;
- Identify the benefits and limitations of the use of numerical models including diagnostics to assess their performance.

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

- Apply the governing equations to ocean systems;
- Identify inputs for models and set-up the necessary data preprocess data routines;
- Plan, choose and use basic numerical models as a research tool as well as to address specific problems;
- Perform basic model validation and assess the skill of models;
- Perform post-processing on model outputs and use them to help answer research questions.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Introduction to Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (1994) by Benoit Cushman-Roisin. Prentice-Hall.
- Mathematical Models in Coastal Engineering (1988) by Christopher G. Koutitas, Pentech Press, distributed by Wiley.

Supplementary Readings:

- Mathematical Methods for Oceanographers: An Introduction (1st edition) (1997) by Edward A. Laws. Wiley.

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-Requisite qualifications: Preferably a first degree which includes any two in combination of the following subjects: mathematics, physics (including computational physics), IT, and statistics as well as to applicants with an engineering degree. Students with a degree in just one of these subjects, in conjunction with biology, chemistry and geography will also be considered if the maximum course uptake numbers are not reached. Mature students and professionals with experience and already engaged on related jobs will be eligible for admission.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Independent Study

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Sept. Asst Session Weighting
Assignment SEM1 Yes 40%
Examination (1 Hour and 30 Minutes) SEM1 Yes 60%

LECTURER/S Charles Galdies
Anthony Galea
Adam Gauci


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 description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2023/4. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.