NFYB16005U Physical Oceanography (Geofys2)

Volume 2020/2021

BSc Programme in Physics


We will apply classical physics to the problem of ocean circulation.

The first quarter of the cource will be rather descriptive; in the second quarter we will derrive the equations of motion and determine heuristically what the forces are that dominate the ocean. It will be shown that the deep ocean is mostly adiabatic so it is not obvious at all how it can be set into motion.

After a general survey of the various dynamic regimes and observational tools, we will then derrive the properties of planetary waves and explore how they set the abyss into motion.

Parallel to the lecture there will be practical exercises during which we develop our own ocean model. This numerical model will then be used to verify the analytical results arrived at during the lectures.

Learning Outcome

The student can:

  • write down the equations governing ocean dynamics
  • explain the effect of rotating frames of reference
  • explain Ekman and Sverdrup transport
  • explain the dynamics of the viscous boundary layers


The student:

  • can provide a basic description of the world oceans:
    major currents, salt & temperature structure, seasonal and mean features
  • knows the basic dynamic regimes of the ocean
  • can explain the current challenges in theoretical oceanography
  • knows how climate signals are transmitted in the ocean


The student can:

  • translate a physical problem into mathematical formalism
  • … and both into a numerical model

See Absalon for final course material. The following is an example of expected course literature.

Pedlosky, Waves in Atmosphere and Ocean, Springer

The course requires knowledge of thermodynamics, mechanics and mathematics corresponding to first year of the physics B.Sc.
The course encompasses lectures, theoretical and experimental exercises as well as possibly field trips.
Mandatory for "Geofysik og Meteorologi"
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42,5
  • Preparation
  • 80
  • Practical exercises
  • 41
  • Exercises
  • 42
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • Total
  • 206,0
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 25 minutes
25 minutes oral exam, no preparation
Exam registration requirements

In order to participate in the oral exam, the student must have submitted and approved at least 80% of the weekly homework sets.

Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
several internal examiners

same as ordinary exam. If a student has not fulfilled the prerequisite, the homework sets can be submitted or re-submitted until 2 weeks before the re-exam.

Criteria for exam assesment

see learning outcome.