GFD I (SIO 212a), Winter 2018


Course Overview

The course will cover basic dynamics of rotating stratified flow, generally applicable to both the ocean and atmosphere. Topics will range from large-scale quasi-balanced flows to instabilities thereof.  Prerequisites include graduate-level coursework in fluid dynamics or permission of the instructor. 


Homework and exams will be based only on material covered in class.  Useful additional information can be found in
* "Atmospheric and Oceanic Fluid Dynamics: Fundamentals and Large-scale Circulation" by Geoffrey Vallis (2006) [online e-reader here
* "Introduction to Geophysical Fluid Dynamics" by Benoit Cushman-Roisin and Jean-Marie Beckers (2011), [online chapter PDFs here]. 

*  "Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics" by Adrian E. Gill.  [online here]


  • 1/8: Introduction, basic equations of motion, rotating reference frames [Reading: Vallis Chp 1, 2.1; C-R Chps 1-2]
  • 1/10: Continued basic intuition of rotating reference frames, Hydrostatic and Boussinesq approximations [Vallis ,2.4, 2.7; C-R Chp. 3] 
  • 1/15: Holiday
  • 1/17:  Inertial motions, deep thinking about Coriolis, Reynolds stresses. [C-R Chapter 2 has some good stuff here, plus C-R 4.1]
  • 1/22: Ekman [Vallis 2.12, C-R Chp 8]
  • 1/24: Shallow water equations, adjustment for non-rotating system [Vallis 3.1, Gill Chp. 5 ]
  • 1/29: Geostrophic Adjustment +FIRST HOMEWORK DUE [Vallis 3.8, Gill 7.2 (includes our in-class example) ]
  • 1/31: Potential Vorticity [Vallis 3.6, C-R 7.4 ]
  • 2/5: PV continued, bottom Ekman layers, some examples. 
  • 2/7:  2-layer shallow water equations and associated solutions. 
  • 2/12: MID-TERM, in class. 
  • 2/14: guest lecture, Ian Eisenman
  • 2/19: Holiday
  • 2/21: QG [Vallis Chp 5, C-R Chp 16]
  • 2/26: QG continued, Rossby waves, 2-layer QG
  • 2/28: Baroclinic instability [Vallis Chp 6.4, C-R Chp 17]
  • 3/5: Baroclinic instability continued, continuously stratified version of QG
  • 3/7:  NO CLASS(Jen out of town need to re-schedule for a Friday)
  • 3/9: **Make up class on FRIDAY, 
  • 3/12: Review and start of student presentations
  • 3/14: Student presentations, more class review. 
  • 3/21: FINAL exam 

Office hours:  students are welcome to stop by anytime (OAR/Keck 260), but it can be useful to call ahead to make sure I'm there. Or make an appointment. 



The first homework will be emailed out by the end of the first week of classes (1/12) and due Monday Jan 22nd in class. It will also be posted here. 

Homework 1, due 29 Jan in class

Homework 2, due 7 Feb in class



There will be a daily quiz at the beginning of most classes, which will be graded on a pass/fail basis. You can miss up to 2 quizzes with no consequence. 

There will be homework due every week or two. You are encouraged to work in groups, but please write up your own assignment. Assignments will be posted here when available. 

There will be both a mid-term and final exam. In each case you'll be allowed to bring in one 8.5x11 piece of paper covered with whatever you deem appropriate. 

Each student will be asked to choose a relevant journal article (with assistance from the instructor) and present it to the class near the end of the quarter.

The final grade will determined as folows: daily quizzes (10%), homework (25%), paper presentation (10%), mid-term (25%), final exam (30%).