University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Introduction to Physical Oceanography 1

LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Geosciences

DESCRIPTION The study-unit covers descriptive and practical aspects in physical oceanography. The main emphasis will be on the principles governing the motion of the oceans, sea-water properties and characteristics, water masses, air-sea interaction and ocean heat balances. The study-unit will focus on the Mediterranean Sea and relate to the importance of the marine physical environment for an ecosystem-based approach to the study of the sea.

Study-unit Aims

More specifically the study-unit will deal with
- ocean dimensions and seabed configuration
- physical properties of sea water
- temperature, salinity and density
- heat balance of the oceans
- basics of ocean circulation - thermohaline circulation of the Mediterranean Sea.
- methods in ocean observations
- satellite oceanography
- principles of operational oceanography

Learning Outcomes

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

Understand and apply the basic concepts underlying the physical characteristics of the oceans and the main drivers of its circulation; make linkages to the other components of the marine ecosystem, and apprehend the available technologies and methods to observe the sea; obtain a general idea on the functioning of the Mediterranean basin-scale circulation.

2. Skills (including transferable [generic] skills): By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

Apply basic physical laws to the ocean continuum ;
Apprehend basic literature referring to the marine physical environment;
Tap data and information sources on physical oceanography.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings


- Brown, Evelyn, Angela Colling, et al. (Open University) (1995) Seawater: its composition, properties and behaviour, 2nd edition, Oxford: Butterworth - Heinemann.
- Brown et al (Open University) (1989) Ocean Circulation, 1st edition, Oxford: Butterworth - Heinemann.


- Duxbury, A.C. and Duxbury, A.B. (1991) An Introduction to the World's Oceans, 3rd edition, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Publishers.
- Pickard, G. L. and Emery, W. J. (1990) Descriptive Physical Oceanography, 5th edition, Oxford: Butterworth - Heinemann.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Practical

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Classwork No 20%
Examination (1 Hour and 30 Minutes) Yes 80%


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 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
MSc (Research) and PhD application deadlines
Application Deadlines for Academic Year 2017/18 
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