701-0478-00L  Introduction to Physical Oceanography

SemesterSpring Semester 2018
LecturersM. Münnich, T. Frölicher, G.‑K. Plattner
Periodicityyearly recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish


701-0478-00 VIntroduction to Physical Oceanography2 hrs
Wed08:15-10:00CHN E 42 »
M. Münnich, T. Frölicher, G.‑K. Plattner
701-0478-00 UIntroduction to Physical Oceanography1 hrs
Wed13:15-14:00LFW C 4 »
M. Münnich, T. Frölicher, G.‑K. Plattner

Catalogue data

AbstractThe lecture gives an overview over physical properties, flows and transport phenomena in stratified water bodies (reservoirs, lakes and the oceans). The focus is the oceans, their currents and the role of the seas in the global climate system. Those completing the course are able to interpret basic flow equations and apply them to phenomema.
ObjectiveStudents are able to
- apply the basic conservation principles of physics to various bodies of water.
- explain the singularities of various natural flow systems.
- apply closed solutions and simple evaluation procedures to characterise flow and transport.
- present an overview of the mechanical flow properties of environmental flow systems.
- describe the role of the oceans in the global climate system.
Content- Review of governing equations (Navier-Stokes equation, Coriolis force, scaling)
- Stratification and mixing (molecular diffusion, Reynolds decomposition, turbulent transport, turbulent closure, boundary layers)
- Density-driven ocean currents (thermocline theory, deep water formation)
- Wind-driven ocean currents (Ekman transport, Sverdrub ballance, westerly boundary currents)
- Waves in Fluids (surface waves, internal waves, Rossby waves)
- Oceans and climate (El Nino, Ice Ages)
Lecture notesIn lieu of a script excerpts the course is accompanied by a Wiki about the topics of the lecture.
Literature- Descriptive Physical Oceanography: An Introduction (L. Talley, G. Pickard)
- Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Dynamics (J. Marshall, A. Plumb)
- Ocean Circulation (Open University)
- Waves, Tides & Shallow-Water Processes (Open University)
Prerequisites / NoticePDFs of the Open University books can be obtained free of charge through ScienceDirect.

Performance assessment

Performance assessment information (valid until the course unit is held again)
Performance assessment as a semester course
ECTS credits3 credits
ExaminersM. Münnich, T. Frölicher, G.-K. Plattner
Typesession examination
Language of examinationEnglish
RepetitionThe performance assessment is only offered in the session after the course unit. Repetition only possible after re-enrolling.
Mode of examinationwritten 90 minutes
Written aidsSimple, non-programmable calculator. One single-sided A4 page of handwritten notes and formulas.
This information can be updated until the beginning of the semester; information on the examination timetable is binding.

Learning materials

Learning environmentKurswiki
Only public learning materials are listed.


No information on groups available.


There are no additional restrictions for the registration.

Offered in

Earth Sciences BachelorMajor ElectivesWInformation
Earth Sciences BachelorElectivesW+Information
Environmental Engineering MasterMinorsWInformation
Environmental Sciences BachelorBiogeochemistryWInformation
Environmental Sciences BachelorBiogeochemistryWInformation