Introduction to physical oceanography and climate

Course web page for EPS 131 (Spring 2010)

Image aca-EPS131fieldtrip-030410-SG-2

Field trip to Woods Hole oceanographic institution, spring 2010. More photos from previous trips here.

Eli Tziperman, office hours: Tue 2-3.

Nathan Arnold,, tel: 617-496-6352, office: Geological Museum, 24 Oxford St, room 401. Office Hours: TBA, Geol. Mus 401;

Day, time:
Monday, Thursday, 2:30-4.

University Museum (24 Oxford St), first floor, room 105 (Daly Seminar Rm)

Matlab Intro Session:
date TBA (Feb 2010) time TBA, location: TBA

time TBA, location: TBA.

Textbooks Outline Detailed Syllabus Additional reading Requirements Links

Last updated: May 13, 2010
The final course time will be determined during the first two weeks of classes, to minimize conflicts with other courses for interested students
Feel free to write or call me with any questions:
Eli Tziperman; eli AT
Office hours: call/ write.

Field trip to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI): (DATE TBA) 2010; We'll be leaving Cambridge very early in the morning, back in the late afternoon. Our Host will be Dr. Bob Pickart; last time we visited to the R/V Atlantis and the submersible Alvin, plus toured the labs of WHOI; photos;

The 2008 movie competition: here;

The 2008 zeta vs xi competition: here;


Main ones: Also useful:


This course will cover observations and the understanding of ocean phenomena from local surface beach waves to the effects of the oceans on global climate. We will discuss ocean waves, the Coriolis force and ocean currents, the large scale temperature and salinity distributions and more. As part of the ocean's role in climate we will cover the wind-driven circulation and the Gulf stream, the thermohaline circulation and the potential instability of Europe's climate due to global warming, El Nino events in the equatorial Pacific ocean, and more. The basic fluid dynamics equations will be gradually introduced. A field trip to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Code will be held during the course, which will be an opportunity to learn about practical aspects of sea-going oceanography as well.

The students will be introduced to the Matlab software for scientific computation and graphics, which will be used for some of the homework assignments.

Prerequisite: Mathematics/ Applied Mathematics 21, Physics 15/ 11, or equivalents, or permission of instructor.


Detailed lecture notes, other supporting material.

  1. Outline and motivation

  2. Temperature and salinity

  3. Horizontal circulation I: currents, Coriolis force

  4. Waves and oscillations I: basics

  5. Sea-going physical oceanography Finally, the real stuff. Two lectures by Dr. Bob Pickart from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and a field trip to Woods Hole.

  6. Friction moving icebergs and feeding the fish

  7. The thermohaline circulation

  8. Horizontal circulation II: Gulf Stream and other western boundary currents

  9. El Nino

  10. Abrupt climate change

  11. Some fluid dynamics fundamentals

  12. Waves and oscillations II: deep ocean waves and waves affected by the Coriolis force

  13. Misc Advanced topics (time permitting);

Additional reading

Beginning texts: Intermediate texts: Advanced texts:


Semi-weekly homework will be given throughout the course. The best 90% of the homework will constitute 40% of the final grade. Each student will be invited to present a brief informal description of some aspects of the ocean circulation and its role in climate and possibly do a class presentation of a fluid experiment (20%), see details here for a list of possible subjects. The final exam may be a take home (40%).