Physics of the Atmosphere and Ocean

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

The purpose of the course is to cover basic properties in meteorology and physical oceanography in a quantitative way. A central part is on exchanges between ocean and atmosphere, which are an important part of the physical climate system. For the ocean the effect of wind in terms of Ekman-layer and Ekman-transport is covered, as well as geostrophic balance, simple mixing processes and the effects of vortices, and the global circulation. For the atmosphere, the emphasis is on basic thermodynamics, cloud physics, and the principles of radiation and feedbacks. As part of the course, students participate in a cruise with both oceanographic and meteorological field-work. Students also conduct laboratory experiments and learn to use typical measurement instruments and the interpretation of operational weather observations.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


The student should

  • know how to use the correct terminology to describe and evaluate key processes in ocean and atmosphere physics
  • recognize derivations of fundamental equations for processes in ocean and atmosphere physics, such as adiabatic processes, hydrostatic balance, and radiation
  • be able to describe the basic principles of atmospheric thermodynamics, radiation, microphysics, and dynamics
  • be able to explain how the ocean circulation is affected by the atmosphere and by the Earth's rotation
  • be able to sketch estuarine circulation and Ekman transport
  • explain the theory for geostrophic balance and give examples of systems in geostrophic balance
  • describe measurements principles and error sources for various instruments used in oceanography and meteorology
  • be able to describe/explain the connections between different processes in weather systems
  • be able to describe processes that affect the structure and thickness of the upper ocean mixed layer
  • be able to define and discuss fluxes of heat, momentum and mass in and between the ocean and the atmosphere


The student should know how to:

  • interpret atmospheric observations from weather stations, radiosondes, weather radar, and satellites
  • use software for analyzing current and predicted weather situations
  • calculate properties and fluxes and estimate processes in the ocean and atmosphere using relevant methods and equations
  • sketch the development of a mixed layer that is under influence of heat fluxes, salt fluxes, and wind
  • perform meteorological and oceanographic observations in the field and in the laboratory
  • use programming tools for analyzing data, plot figures, and discuss the outcome


General competence

The student should know how to

  • describe, analyze and report observations from laboratory experiments
  • plan and perform simple field experiments under supervision
  • present results from group work as a written report and oral talk

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction

Autumn  This course has a limited capacity, enrolment is based on application. Application deadline is Thursday in week 33 for the autumn semester. Please see this page for more information: 

The time of the first lecture/orientation meeting can be found in the schedule on the course website or on the Mitt UiB learning platform.

It is mandatory to attend the first lecture.

Required Previous Knowledge
Recommended Previous Knowledge
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
Access to the course requires admission to a programme of study at The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.
Teaching and learning methods

The teaching will be given as lectures with a focus on active learning, cruise, laboratory experiments and seminars. The students write a cruise report and give a presentation.

Activity: 4 hours lectures and 2 hours laboratory work or exercises each week/15 weeks.

Cruise: One day.

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

Participation in the introduction lectures. Participation in planning the cruise, participation on the cruise, approved cruise-report and cruise presentation.

Participation in a radio-sonde launch. 

Valid for four semesters: The semester mandatory activities have been approved and the three following semesters.

Forms of Assessment

One laboratory report in oceanography (individual work).

One laboratory report in meteorology (group report + presentation).

The laboratory reports are valid in the semester they have been approved and the following semester.

The 4-hours final written exam counts 70 percent of the final grade and must be passed.

The students can earn 7 percent-points bonus for the written exam result based on the completion of 12 quizzes related to weekly lecture preparations.

We add up scores form the partial assessments to determine the final grade in the course. The percentage distribution for how much the reports and final exams count will be decided in collaboration with the students during the first 2 weeks of teaching. The percentage distribution used in the teaching semester will also apply to early exams in the following semester.

Grading Scale
The grading scale used is A to F. Grade A is the highest passing grade in the grading scale, grade F is a fail.
Assessment Semester
Examination both spring semester and autumn semester. In semesters without teaching the examination will be arranged at the beginning of the semester.
Reading List
The reading list will be available within July 1st for the autumn semester and January 1st for the spring semester.
Course Evaluation
The course will be evaluated by the students in accordance with the quality assurance system at UiB and the department.
Examination Support Material
Non-programmable calculator, according to the faculty regulations
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.