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Interdisciplinary Oceanography
Lectures for Spring 2009

This is a general outline of the material that will be discussed each day, and we will probably deviate from it as the course progresses. It is meant to be an overview of the topics to be discussed in roughly the order they will be discussed. Some topics may take more or less time than listed.

You must read the appropriate chapter before coming to class, and you must turn in your solution to each day's problem. See the Class Syllabus for details.


Getting Started

21 January 2009 - Introduction

23 January 2009 - Earth System Science

Problem 1. Earth's systems are strongly influenced by life on earth. Please list a few systems influenced by life, and how life influences the systems.


CO2 and the Role of the Ocean in Climate

You have read that climate is warming, that the warming will lead to disaster if we don't stop burning fossil fuels, and that we may be required to stop driving our cars. What's happening? Is it really that bad? Are there other ways to solve the problem? Isn't earth just warming up naturally as a result of coming out of the last ice age?

26 January 2009 - The Ocean and Climate

Problem 2. The web page on the C02 problem includes information on sources of C02, but nothing about sinks. Knowing something about the earth's systems, and about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, what might be some processes that remove C02 from the atmosphere?

28 January 2009 - The CO2 Problem

Problem 3. The web page on the Ocean and Climate lists many ways the ocean is important. It doesn't, however, list the fundamental reason why it dominates the earth system. What is the fundamental reason why the ocean is so important?

30 January 2009 - Earth's Radiation Balance, Oceanic Heat Fluxes

Problem 4. Explain very simply, in one paragraph, how greenhouse gases increase earth's surface temperature.

2 February 2009 - What is the Evidence for Global Warming?

Problem 5. How much and how quickly has earth's temperature changed over the last few hundred thousand years?

4 February 2009 - Abrupt Climate Change and the Ocean's Circulation

Problem 6. How does the sinking of water in the far north Atlantic influence northern-hemisphere climate?

6 February 2009 - Carbon Cycle in the Ocean and the Iron Hypothesis plus Microbial Food Web

Problem 7. Give an example of a feedback loop, in the carbon cycle, that influences global warming.

9 February 2009 - Modeling the Climate System

Problem 8. Predictions of climate for the rest of the century are based on models. How good are these climate models? Please provide evidence that justifies your answer.

11 February 2009 - Climate Change Policy Issues

Problem 9. Based on your readings, please come to class prepared to defend your opinion on global-change policy. Bring a one sentence summary of your opinion and a one-paragraph summary of the basis for your opinion.


El Niño and Role of Ocean in Weather

El Niño is influencing the weather everywhere according to many newspaper articles. Or is it really El Niño that is causing changes in the weather? Why should events in the equatorial Pacific be so important? How can events so far away influence our weather?

13 February 2009 - El Niño and Tropical Heat

Problem 10. Find at least two newspaper articles that mention El Niño or La Niña. What do they say?

16 February 2009 - Equatorial Currents and Typical El Niño

El Niño Definition
El Niño is a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather and climate around the globe - NOAA.

Problem 11. Why does El Niño have such a large influence on global weather patterns?

18 February 2009 - Observing the Tropical Pacific

Problem 12. Please use an atlas or other source of information to estimate the width of the Pacific along the equator in degrees of longitude, and the distance between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn in degrees of latitude. Now, express these values as a percentage of the circumference of earth.

20 February 2009 - Teleconnections and Forecasting El Niño

Problem 13. What is the El Niño forecast for this Spring, March-June 2009? For an answer, go to the Forecast Forum of the Climate Diagnostics Bulletin issued monthly by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. Can you trust the forecast?

23 February 2009 - El Niño Policy Issues

Problem 14. Please list at least three major industries in this country that would benefit from improved seasonal forecasts of temperature and precipitation, and how the forecasts benefit each industry.


25 February 2009 - Test 1

This is an open book test covering earth system science, global climate change and the role of the ocean in climate, and the role of the ocean in changing weather patterns associated with El Niño.


Coastal Erosion, Storm Surges, and Tsunamis

Your uncle was planning to buy a beachfront house southwest of Galveston beyond the end of the seawall. Now, after the hurricanes of 2008 and the great 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, he is worried. Since you are taking an oceanography class, he asks you: What is the possibility that his beach house will be wiped out by a hurricane or a tsunami? After all, New Orleans was safe for centuries, now it is destroyed. Tsunamis were rare in the Indian Ocean, but then the big one hit. Is a coastal house safe? What advice can you give him?

Before you can give an answer, you need more information.

27 February 2009 - The Annual Cycle of a Coast

30 Minute Film- Portrait of a Coast

This is a beautiful film that follows the seasonal cycle of a New England coast noting problems caused by coastal development. Although it shows New England, the same processes apply to any low, sandy coast with barrier islands, including the Texas gulf coast. While watching the film try to remember:

  1. Why are beaches important?
  2. What is the seasonal cycle of the beach? When is it highest, when lowest?
  3. What five processes influence the beach?
  4. How does coastal development lead to problems?
  5. What are the problems?

2 March 2009 - During Class Time: Meet with Your Team and Begin Picking a Topic For Your Class Report

Today, form teams of four to do the required class report, and select a topic for your report. Please read the Syllabus section on the class project, and the web page with more information on the report. Please provide me with a brief outline of one or two paragraphs describing the topic your team will include in your end-of-semester report.

I will be in Austin today with the Faculty Senate. I expect you to work without my supervision.

Your brief outline is due Wednesday 4 March. Please submit only one outline per team.

4 March 2009 - Types of Coasts, and Beach Processes

Team Outline Due: Description of what subject your team will present at the end of the semester.

Problem 15. How do beaches in California differ from beaches in Texas?

6 March 2009 - Beach Erosion and Coastal Structures

Problem 16. What types of changes did Hurricane Ike produce along the Texas coasts?

9 March 2009 - Storm Surges

Problem 17. What factors led to the breaching of the levees surrounding New Orleans and the flooding of the city by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

11 March 2009 - Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and the Great Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004.

Problem 18. Knowing about the Indian Ocean tsunami, what type of measurements and information might be needed to warn residents of Galveston Island of an approaching tsunami? Please be specific about the warning network. Where might a earthquake occur that could produce a tsunami. How could it be detected?

13 March 2009 - Coastal Erosion Policy Issues

Problem 19. Who should be responsible for storm-surge damage to structures along the Texas coast? Please provide a basis for your answer


16 March 2009 - 20 March 2009 - Spring Break


Fisheries: The Ocean as Food Source

Where are my Orange Roughy
Julie loved orange roughy. She liked it even better than catfish. Her mother liked it because it was cheap compared with most other fish at the market. But now it was seldom for sale. Her mother asked the manager at the fish counter and he said he couldn't get it any more.

Can we help Julie?
Can we find out what happened to the orange roughy? To prepare for this section, look up orange roughy at http://www.fishbase.org/search.cfm so we know what fish we are learning about. Then write down possible explanations of why the fish is no longer sold. For example, few were sold so the market stopped carrying it. etc.

picture of orange roughy

Orange Roughy (Slimehead): Hoplostethus atlanticus. Ckick on the image for a larger image.
From New Zealand Seafood Industry.

23 March 2009 - Fisheries Issues and the Tragedy of the Commons

Problem 20: What is the tragedy of the commons? The term was used by Garrett Hardin in his now famous article in Science in 1968. Hardin, Garret. "The Tragedy of the Commons." Science, 1968. 162:1243-8. He wrote a follow-up to the article in 1998, "Extensions of The Tragedy of the Common"."

25 March 2009 - Fish and Fisheries

Problem 21. What has been your personal involvement with fish? If you fish, what has been your experience as a fisher? If you eat fish, what kind and how often? If you never catch or eat fish, just write that down.

27 March 2009 - Marine Fisheries Food Webs

Problem 22. Give another example of a marine food web. Remember, a food web is not a food chain. For example, use information from the PEER curriculum at Texas A&M University to describe the marine web in a Texas lagoon.

30 March 2009 - Distribution of Phytoplankton and Upwelling Regions

Problem 23. Where geographically are phytoplankton most common in the ocean? List typical types of geographic regions. Do these regions coincide with the regions with the most fish that we discussed in Fish and Fisheries?

1 April 2009 - Invertebrates: The Other Marine Food Source

Problem 24. Shrimp farming appears to be an ideal way to avoid the problems of over fishing of wild shrimp. But is it all beneficial? What are the environmental disadvantages of shrimp farming? Please cite evidence for your conclusions.

3 April 2009 - Fisheries Policy Issues

Problem 25. What is Texas government doing to reduce over fishing of shrimp and environmental problems of shrimping?
Recreational regulations for shrimp are in the shrimp regulations from the Texas Parks and Wildlife. Commercial regulations are in the Commercial Fishing Guide. More information is in the Texas Shrimp Industry Report (5.9 MB) of Sept 2002, and 2005 Annual Report (1.5 MB).

6 April 2009 - Test 2

This is an open book test covering coastal erosion and fisheries.


Coastal Pollution

Every year, millions of people worldwide begin living near the shore, joining the billion or so people already living in the coastal zone. What is the impact of all these people?

8 April 2009- The Coastal Zone

Problem 26. How does the limit of submerged lands under the control of Texas differ from that of all other states except Florida, and why?

10 April 2009 - Reading Day, No Class Today

13 April 2009 - Introduction to Coastal Pollution

Problem 27. What are the most important pollution problems in Texas coastal waters?

15 April 2009 - Sources of Coastal Pollution

Problem 28. List common activities that you do that increase pollution of Texas' coastal waters.

Report Outline Due. Please provide me with a detailed, one-page outline and summary of what your team will include in your end-of-semester report. Your end-of-semester report is due the day of your presentation.

17 April 2009 - Alien Species

Problem 29. Find information about one alien species that has caused great damage along a coast of any country. What is the species, when was it introduced, and what damage has it caused?

20 April 2009 - Harmful Algal Blooms

Problem 30. What are some effects on human health caused by harmful algal blooms?

22 April 2009 - Oil Spills and Aftermath

Problem 31. What was the long-term result of the largest oil spill in US waters, the Valdez spill in Prince Williams Sound Alaska?

24 April 2009 - No Class Today

Please work with your team on your presentation.

27 April 2009 - Coastal Pollution Policy Issues

Problem 32. Explain why what happens in Brazos County must be considered when devising a plan for managing Galveston Bay

29 April 2009 - During Class Time: Meet with Your Team to Prepare Presentation or Take Make-Up Exam


Presentation of Reports

To be fair to all groups, you will have exactly 10 minutes for your presentation. I will time your presentation and ask you to stop after 10 minutes. You will not be interrupted during your presentation. I will use 1-2 minutes for questions after the presentation. Please give me a written copy of your report at the time of your presentation. All team members must sign the report. If you will use the computer for the presentation, please put your talk on the computer before class. There will not be time during class. I suggest you bring the presentation on a URL thumb drive.

I suggest you practice your presentation to stay on time.

1 May 2009 - Presentation of Reports I

  • 10:20 AM: Team 1: Andrew Flanagan, Kasey Johnson, Chris Kerr, and Sidney King: Energy and Our Ocean.
  • 10:32 AM: Team 2: Chad Barber, Steven Carrell, Travis Condit, Evan Greene: The Iron Hypothesis.
  • 10:44 AM: Team 3: Matt Brumley, Chris Ponder, Cody Williams, and Celeste Wyble: Pollution Caused by Hurricane Ike.
  • 10:56 AM: Team 4: Sarah Brock, Alvin Johnson, Maria Mendoza, and Michael Messina: Overfishing of Alaskan Halibut.

4 May 2009 - Presentation of Reports II

  • 10:20 AM: Team 5: Chris Harrison, Jonathan Leon, Nicole Minicone, and Cynthia Vittone: Beach Erosion and Replenishment in Galveston.
  • 10:32 AM: Team 6: Samuel Barnes, Ryan Keel, Jeff Mladenka, and Michael McCormack: Decline of Flounder in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • 10:44 AM: Team 7: Dane Byrd, Joshua Frantz, and Justin Hermiston, and Cedric Ling: Beach Nourishment.


A Final Thought

Now that the course is ending, what will you do next? Will you:

"Choose your reality with careful thought and emotion, and then take the next necessary step–that of responsible action, achieving balance by combining wisdom and compassion... By our individual thoughts and dreams we create the world around us in a very real way."
Eve Bruce in Shaman, M.D. (2002), page 170.

You have gained some wisdom about the ocean, and compassion for the creatures who live in it. What future ocean will you help create?

12 May 2009 - FINAL EXAMINATION 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM

Revised on: 4 May, 2009

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