Earth 421

Introduction to Physical Oceanography
Earth 421

This course is cross-listed as CLIMATE 421 and ENVIRON 426

3 credit course: next offered in Fall 2019

This course is intended primarily for advanced undergraduate students and beginning graduate students in STEM disciplines.  We have had from 15 to 35 students in this course. The students are roughly equally distributed between graduate and undergraduate levels, and have primarily come the College of Engineering and LS&A, with some students coming from other colleges for instance SEAS.

From the Winter 2012 offering onwards, the course has included an optional field trip on the NOAA Great Lakes research vessel R/V Laurentian, operating out of Muskegon. A writeup on the Winter 2013 field trip was included in the Winter 2014 Departmental Newsletter, and another a picture from the 2013 field trip is shown above.

Past and current offerings:

Winter 2011, Winter 2012, Winter 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2018

Course Description

This course examines the fundamentals of physical oceanography; geophysical fluid dynamics; the physical properties of the ocean and water masses; circulation of the atmosphere; wind-driven and buoyancy-driven ocean circulation; tides; surface and internal waves; eddies; and mixing.

If you take this course you will understand:

  • The distribution of oceanic temperatures and salinities
  • Why stratification and rotation are so important for oceanic (and atmospheric) dynamics
  • What the forces are that drive oceanic motions
  • Why the ocean is so important for Earth’s climate

Homework sets will emphasize concepts as well as datasets from ocean models, in-situ instruments, and remotely sensed data.

Advisory prerequisites

Introductory science course; Math 115 and 116; or permission of instructor

Detailed Syllabus for Earth 421