Chapter 1 - A Voyage of Discovery
At the most basic level, I hope you, the students who are reading this text, will become aware of some of the major conceptual schemes (or theories) that form
the foundation of physical oceanography, how they were arrived at, and why they are widely accepted, how oceanographers achieve order out of a random
ocean, and the role of experiment in oceanography (to paraphrase Shamos, 1995: p. 89).
More particularly, I expect you will be able to describe physical processes
influencing the oceans and coastal regions: the interaction of the ocean with
the atmosphere, and the distribution of oceanic winds, currents, heat fluxes,
and water masses. The text emphasizes ideas rather than mathematical techniques.
We will try to answer such questions as:
- What is the basis of our understanding of physics of the ocean?
are the physical properties of sea water?
- What are the important thermodynamic
and dynamic processes influencing the ocean?
- What equations describe the
processes and how were they derived?
- What approximations were used in the
- Do the equations have useful solutions?
- How well do the solutions describe
the process? That is, what is the experimental basis for the theories?
processes are poorly understood? Which are well understood?
- What are the
sources of information about physical variables?
- What instruments are used
for measuring each variable?
- What are their accuracy and limitations?
- What historic data exist?
- What platforms are used? Satellites,
ships, drifters, moorings?
- What processes are important? Some important
process we will study include:
- Heat storage and transport in the oceans.
- The exchange of heat with
the atmosphere and the role of the ocean in climate.
- Wind and thermal
forcing of the surface mixed layer.
- The wind-driven circulation including
the Ekman circulation, Ekman pumping of the deeper circulation, and upwelling.
- The dynamics of ocean currents, including geostrophic currents and
the role of vorticity.
- The formation of water types and masses.
- The thermohaline
- Equatorial dynamics and El Niño.
- The observed circulation of
the ocean plus the Gulf of Mexico.
- Numerical models of the circulation.
- Waves in the ocean including
surface waves, inertial oscillations, tides, and tsunamis.
- Waves in shallow water, coastal processes, and tide predictions
are the major currents and water masses in the ocean, what governs their
distribution, and how does the ocean interact with the atmosphere?