OCEAN 285-286 Physics Across Oceanography: Fluid Mechanics and Waves

Ocean 285 covers a selection of topics from fluid mechanics and waves, prioritized by relevance to the marine sciences. These topics are studied in the direct context of their applications. Included are traditional ‘physical oceanography’ concepts (e.g., buoyancy, geostrophic flow, ocean surface gravity waves) as well as concepts from other subdisciplines of oceanography (e.g., instrumentation, chemical dispersion, marine geophysics, physical controls on biological productivity including the upper ocean light field, and many others).  

In addition to lectures that incorporate active learning components, there are weekly labs and tutorial sessions. Labs provide a deeper opportunity to connect concepts introduced in lecture to applications, and observations, learn about oceanographic measurements, and get hands-on experience with the complexity of real fluids. Tutorial sessions consist of problem solving in small groups, dealing with aspects of the physics that are particularly interesting or subtle, and extending the concepts that are introduced in lecture.

Students that will finish the course will:

  • Understand the basic principles of fluid mechanics and waves (including optics and acoustics), in the immediate context of their applications within oceanography and other marine sciences.
  • Understand vector fields and their mathematical representation, how these concepts appear in oceanography (fluid mechanics, heat transfer, etc), and how this mathematical representation is the foundation of our ability to predict and calculate in ocean science.
  • Have an ability to make quantitative calculations using differential mathematical equations that represent basic physical laws in laboratory and real-world oceanographic settings.
  • Understand relevant units and dimensions, along with how to use these aspects to assess the importance of various physical phenomena, and whether calculations make sense.
Students taking Ocean 285 must also register for Ocean 286 (the lab component) except by prior arrangment with instructor for those who have taken full year long sequences of both calculus and physics at UW or their previous college.