Oceanography Physics

course ID





14 Weeks

Semester DD


Course details

1) Fundamental elements characterizing the ocean from a physical and chemical point of view: distribution of hydrological parameters along the oceanic water column; Seawater behavior under different temperature and pressure conditions (thermal expansion, freezing, compressibility, variation of the adiabatic temperature, specific heat, thermal conductivity). Tools to characterize the oceanic waters (e.g., temperature and salinity diagram); stability and instability of the water column (frequency of Brunt-Vaisala, shear instability).

2) Elements of ocean circulation theory: study and analysis of the main forces that drive the ocean circulation (the role of the wind stress and density); air-sea interaction theory; Ekman currents. Generation of geostrophic currents; role of stratification: Baroclinic compensation, their current and their calculation of hydrological data. Barotropic and baroclinic Vortices; the Sverdrup balance, western intensification, some elements on the Stommel and Munk models.

3) Introduction to the oceanic variability and its impact on Earth's climate system: barotropic and baroclinic Rossby waves; topographic waves and Kelvin waves: derivation of the dispersion relation, in homogeneous and stratified fluids; ocean's role in the variability of the climate system, the main indicators of the oceanic and climate variability (e.g., Arctic Oscillation (AO), ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation), AMO (Atlantic Meridional Oscillation)).

4) analytical and numerical oceanographic modeling: simplified and analytical models (e.g., Stommel model), thermohaline circulation, multiple states of equilibrium; hysteresis and bifurcation diagram; Three-dimensional models of ocean circulation; parameterization of small scale (of the turbulence closure models) implementation of some examples of a numerical ocean model (e.g. the Mediterranean model).


The course of study is aimed at providing an advanced preparation of Physics, with knowledge of specialist topics of recent research in Physics, in particular in the area of Atmospheric Physics and Meteorology. The training objectives include advanced knowledge of descriptive and theoretical ocean physics, mathematical methods of physics applied to geophysical fluids and in particular to the ocean.

Students must have a thorough understanding of the most important theories of geophluidynamics and related experimental and observational problems. They must also have a good knowledge of the state of the art in the field of Geophysics. The verification of knowledge and comprehension is done through written and oral tests.

Students must be able to identify the essential elements of a complex physical-oceanographic problem and to model it analytically and/or numerically, making the necessary approximations.
They must be able to adapt existing models to new experimental data. These skills are obtained through theoretical, numerical and in situ data analysis.