Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Ocean

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content


The course presents the governing equations and their application to various phenomena in geophysical fluid dynamics. Topics in atmospheric sciences and oceanography are studied using theory, demonstrations and exercises.



Main topics are geostrophy; the effect of friction in the surface and bottom boundary layer (Ekman dynamics); waves in homogeneous and stratified fluids, with and without rotation effects; potential vorticity; the quasi-geostrophic framework; and barotropic and baroclinic instability.

Learning Outcomes

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


The student

  • understands the governing equations of large-scale motion on a rotating planet
  • understands steady state and balanced flows in the atmosphere and ocean
  • understands the basics of waves in the atmosphere and ocean
  • understands the basic principles of barotropic and baroclinic instability
  • understands the basic principles of potential vorticity conservation


The student

  • can scale and simplify the governing equations for solving basic dynamical problems
  • can formulate and solve problems in a geostrophic framework
  • can formulate and apply wave theory to various types of waves in the atmosphere and ocean
  • can formulate and use Ekman theory
  • can formulate problems in a quasi-geostrophic framework

General competence

The student

  • is able to discuss basic governing equations in dynamical meteorology and oceanography
  • is able to derive, scale and simplify the governing equations
  • is able to present and discuss dynamical phenonema in the atmosphere and ocean

ECTS Credits

10 studiepoeng

Level of Study


Semester of Instruction

Autumn Enrolment in this course is based on application. Application deadline is wednesday in week 33 for the autumn semester. Please see this page for more information: www.uib.no/en/matnat/53431/admission-courses-limited-capacity

Place of Instruction

Required Previous Knowledge

Principles of meteorology and/or oceanogarphy in addition to basic knowledge in maths and physics (mechanics) or equivalent to GEOF110 and MAT212.

This is a theoretical course which requires a solid mathematical background. To follow the course you must be familiar with (and be able to use) concepts like differential equations, partial derivatives, curl, the equation of motion in a rotating frame of reference, the Coriolis force, geostrophic flow, Ekman dynamics. You also need to have basic programming skills in e.g. Matlab, Python or similar.

Recommended Previous Knowledge
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
GEOF320, GEOF326, GEOF330: 10 ECST
Access to the Course
Access to the course requires admission to a program of study at The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Teaching and learning methods
Teaching will be in the form of lectures and exercise sessions Lectures of 2x2 hours per week for 15 weeks One exercise session of 2 hours per week for 15 weeks
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
One compulsory assignment and five exercise sets must be handed in. Approved assignments/exercises are valid for the current and following semester.
Forms of Assessment
Assignment and exercise sets count for 30% of the final grade and are valid for the current and following semester. The four exercise sets with the best result count for the final grade. The final exam is a 4-hour written exam, counts for 70% of the final grade, and must be passed.
Grading Scale
The grading scale used is A to F. A is the highest grade, E is a pass, F is a fail.
Assessment Semester
Regular exams both in the spring - , and autumn semester. In semesters without teaching, the examination will be arranged early in the semester.
Reading List
The reading list will be available by 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
Programme Committee
The Program Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study program and courses.
Course Coordinator
You will find the responsible and contact persons on «Mitt UiB», or contact studieveileder@gfi.uib.no
Course Administrator
The Faculty of mathematics and sciences by the Geophysical Institute has the administrative responsibility of the course and study program.