An Introduction to Meteorology and Oceanography

Lecturer(s): Richard PERKINS, Pietro SALIZZONI
Course ⋅ 18 hStudy ⋅ 14 h


The aim of this course is to provide a physical understanding of large-scale oceanic and atmospheric circulations, and the practical consequences of such systems. Large-scale movements are the result of the interaction between thermodynamic imbalances - driven by solar radiation - and the Earth's rotation. Therefore, these two processes are first studied before being combined to explain the functioning of large-scale meteorological and oceanic systems. The problem of climate change will also be discussed.


Oceanography, meteorology, currents, waves, tides, solar radiation, Coriolis, Ekman, Froude, Rossby, Sverdrup, Taylor


  1. Introduction The composition and the physico-chemical properties of the atmosphere and the ocean. The distribution of water over the surface of the earth.

  2. Heat transfer in the atmosphere and the ocean Solar radiation, radiative exchanges between earth and atmosphere; sensible heat transfer, stratification and stability

  3. The effects of rotation The equations of motion in a rotating frame of reference, geostrophic equilibrium and quasi-geostrophic flows. The thermal wind.

  4. Forced motions Ekman transport and Ekman pumping; the Ekman layer and the nocturnal jet.

  5. Waves in a stratified or rotating flow Interfacial waves in stratified fluids; waves in a continuously-stratified fluid - internal waves. Rossby waves and the Rossby adjustment problem.

  6. Ocean currents Wind forcing, the Sverdrup balance, oceanic gyres, Ekman pumping in ocean and coastal regions, the Gulf stream.

  7. Large scale systems General circulation in the atmosphere, atmosphere-ocean coupling, El Niño. Climate and climate change. Meteorological models, and limits to weather prediction.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the different physical processes which drive motion in the atmosphere and ocean
  • Be able to identify the different processes involved in the exchange of mass, momentum and heat between the ocean and the atmosphere
  • Be able to estimate the importance of different physical processes through order-of-magnitude calculations
  • Be able to explain the phenomena represented on a meteorological chart


Knowledge 50% + Know-how 50% Knowledge = 40% Final exam + 60% Continuous assessment Know-how = 40% Final exam + 60% Continuous assessment