SIO 210: Introduction to Physical Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California San Diego

Fall 2015

Instructors: Lynne Talley and Myrl Hendershott
TAs: Jessica Masich and Jose 'Alfredo' Giron Nava (course TAs), Jonathan Eliashiv (Math tutorial)

Time: Monday (All), Wednesday (Section 1), Friday (Section 2) 2:00-3:20

Location: Vaughan 100

Equatorial Pacific SST, courtesy of NOAA

UCSD TED site for SIO 210

Course Overview

Physical description of the sea; physical properties of seawater, methods and measurements, boundary processes, regional oceanography. Prerequisites: the mathematics and physics required for admission to the graduate curriculum in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, or consent of the instructor. Since math courses might have been taken many years ago for some students, please check this math concept link, and attend the math 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.

The class is divided into two sections: Section 1 (more descriptive approach), and Section 2 (more dynamical approach). Students should attend two lectures per week: Monday (for all) and either Wednesday (Section 1) or Friday (Section 2), which will cover the same material as Wednesday but with a more dynamical approach if appropriate. All students are welcome to attend all lectures. All graded work will be the same for both sections.

Lecture links: until just prior to lecture, the link is likely to be the 2014 content

Sep. 28: Introduction, scales of motion and Physical Properties of Seawater I
Sep. 30, Oct. 2: Physical Properties of Seawater II and III
Oct. 19 [originally Oct. 5]: Dynamics I Advection/Transports/Budgets and Typical distributions I
Oct. 21, 23 [originally Oct. 7,9]: Typical distributions II; and Dynamics II Equations of motion, non-rotating
Oct. 12 (all students): Waves [Myrl Hendershott]
Oct. 14 (all students): Tsunamis [Myrl Hendershott]
Oct. 16 (all students): Tides [Myrl Hendershott]
Oct. 26 [originally Oct. 19]: Observational tools and Data analysis methods
Oct. 28, 30 [originally Oct. 21, 23]: Data analysis methods; and Dynamics III: Rotation
Nov. 2: Mid-term (in-class, in Sumner auditorium)
Nov. 4, 6 [originally Oct. 26]: Atmospheric circulation; and Dynamics IV: Geostrophy
Nov. 9 [originally Oct. 28, 30]: Dynamics IV (continued) Geostrophy; and Dynamics V: Friction, Ekman layers
Nov. 11, 13 [originally Nov. 4, 6]: Eddies, Rossby waves;
Nov. 16:
Dynamics VI: Potential vorticity, beta effect, Rossby waves and Pacific Ocean - wind-driven circulation
Nov. 18, 20: Atlantic, Indian upper ocean circulation; Dynamics VII: Sverdrup balance, western boundary currents
Nov. 23: Eastern boundary currents; and Dynamics VIII: eastern boundary currents
Nov. 25 (single lecture): Equatorial circulation and ENSO; and Dynamics IX: Equatorial circulation and ocean-atmosphere feedbacks
Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving holiday)
Nov. 30: Atlantic Ocean deep circulation; and Dynamics X: Thermohaline circulation
Dec. 2: Southern Ocean circulation and Global circulation
Dec. 4 (both sections): Global circulation (continued) and Climate and the oceans
Dec. 9: Final exam (3-6 PM)


Problem Set 1, Due Oct. 19

Problem Set 2, Due Oct. 30
Problem Set 2 Answer Key

Problem Set 3, Due Nov. 25
Problem Set 3 Answer Key

Problem Set 4, Due Dec. 9 (Turn in Dec. 5 for weekend grading; turn in early Dec. 7 for Monday grading)

Short paper, data project or tank experiment.

Topic due Oct. 26, JOA project or paper due Nov. 23, tank experiments ongoing.
Choose between:
  • (1) critique of a published paper (written report),
  • (2) data project using Java Ocean Atlas, with Jim Swift and Jessica Masich (individual or group presentation, written report). Letter from Jim Swift regarding JOA
  • (3) tank experiment (group presentation, written report),
    Read this: Guidelines (2015) 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 (alternating Jess Masich, Alfredo Giron and Lynne Talley)
    Section 1 (less mathematical): Thursday's 2:00-3:00 Hubbs 4500 (Alfredo Giron)
    Section 2 (more mathematical): Friday's 11-12 Vaughan 300 (Jess Masich)

    Math tutorial (click this link to look at list of math concepts): Monday's 11-12, Ritter 229. (Jonathan Eliashiv)
    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), paper (12), each of 4 assignments (7)

    Previous exams, including mid-term 2015 answer key

    Primary texts - online

    Other relevant texts (* = hard copy reserves available at SIO department)

    Most useful for everyone:

    Introductory level:

    More advanced dynamical treatments:

    Other online resources

    Contact Information

    Lynne Talley; Nierenberg Hall 307; 534-6610 Home Page ltalley at
    Myrl Hendershott; CCS Bldg 303; 534-3208 mhendershott at
    Jim Swift (JOA projects); Isaacs Hall 306; 534-3387 jswift at
    Jessica Masich, Teaching Assistant; jemillar at
    Jose Alfredo Giron Nava, Teaching Assistant; jgironna at
    Jonathan Eliashiv, Math tutor; jeliashiv at
    Last modified: 29 Nov. 2015