Introduction to Physical Oceanography and Climate
Spring 2020
FAS course web page for EPS 131

Field trip to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, spring 2018.

Eli Tziperman, office hours: please see FAS course web page.
Xiaoting Yang, Xiaoting_Yang@g.harvard.edu. Office Hours: see FAS course web page.
Day, time:
Tuesday, Thursday, 1:30-2:45.
Geological Museum, 24 Oxford St, third floor, room 375
Field Trip!
To the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/ WHOI, obligatory & fun; hosted by Dr. Bob Pickart; Friday, March 27, 2020. Departing 7am, returning around 6pm.
will be used for HW and class demonstrations. If you would like a refresher, consider the Matlab boot camp, 3-4 lectures during the beginning of the term. Register here.
time and location: see FAS course web page.
Source materials:
Here. To access from outside campus or from the Harvard wireless network, use the VPN software available from the FAS software download site.
Important past events…:
Homework will be assigned every 9-10 days (40% of course grade, lowest grade dropped). Each student will give a short (10 min) presentation (details), which, together with a small-group video project (examples above) and/ or a wikipedia entry-writing project, will constitute another 30%. The final exam will be an open-book take-home (30%).

Collaboration policy: we strongly encourage you to discuss and work on homework problems with other students and with the teaching staff. However, after discussions with peers, you need to work through the problems yourself and ensure that any answers you submit for evaluation are the result of your own efforts, reflect your own understanding and are written in your own words. You must appropriately cite any books, articles, websites, lectures, etc that have helped you with your work.

Course materials are the property of the instructional staff, or other copyright holders, and are provided for your personal use. You may not distribute them or post them on websites without permission of the course instructor.

Last updated: May 12, 2020
Feel free to write or call with any questions:
Eli Tziperman; eli@eps.harvard.edu
Office hours: see course web page.


1 Outline
2 Syllabus
 Outline and motivation
 Temperature and salinity
 Horizontal circulation I: Coriolis force
 Waves I: basics
 Sea-going oceanography!
 Friction, Ekman
 The thermohaline circulation
 Horizontal circulation II: western boundary currents, vorticity, Rossby waves
 El Nino
 Abrupt climate change
3 Additional readings
4 Links

1 Outline

Observations and fundamentals of ocean dynamics, from the role of the oceans in global climate and climate change to beach waves. Topics include the greenhouse effect, oceans and global warming; El Niņo evens in the equatorial Pacific Ocean; currents: the wind driven ocean circulation and the Gulf stream; coastal upwelling and fisheries; temperature, salinity, the overturning circulation and its effect on global climate stability and variability; wave motions: surface ocean waves, internal waves, tsunamis and tides; ocean observations by ships, satellites, moorings, floats and more.

A field trip to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod will be held during the course, which will be an opportunity to learn about sea-going oceanography.

Prerequisite: Mathematics 21a, 21b; Physical Sciences 12a, Physics 15a or Applied Physics 50a; or equivalents/ permission of instructor.

Software for scientific computation and graphics will be introduced (students may choose either Matlab or python), which will be used for some homework assignments.

2 Syllabus

Detailed syllabus, directory with all source materials and lecture notes.

  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, Ekman
  7. The thermohaline circulation
  8. Horizontal circulation II: Gulf Stream and other western boundary currents, vorticity, Rossby waves
  9. El Nino
  10. Time permitting:
    1. Abrupt climate change

3 Additional readings

Beginning texts:

Intermediate texts:

Advanced texts:

4 Links