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The University of Southampton

SOES2010 The Dynamic Ocean

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Developed your knowledge of physical processes and phenomena, including optics, mixing, ocean currents, and waves, and the methods used to understand these processes.
  • Develop your knowledge of global ocean water masses and circulation and basic understanding of the role of the ocean in the climate system.
  • Acquired a basic introduction to the practical quantitative methods used in physical oceanography.
  • Applied a high level programming language to a large physical oceanography dataset.
  • Developed boat-based practical skills, to analyse transport, light attenuation and dispersion


This module follows Physical Oceanography I and provides you with core knowledge of the processes that govern observed structures and currents throughout the oceans. Firstly, air-sea interaction is introduced, concerning the surface exchanges of heat, freshwater and momentum. Optical properties of seawater explain how light penetrates the ocean to provide energy for photosynthesis. This leads also to explanations of the way heat is distributed in the upper ocean, how the thermocline is formed and how the mixed layer develops seasonally. The equation of state for seawater is next considered in detail with a focus on density stratification and static stability. The principles of underwater acoustics are introduced, including an explanation of sound channels in the ocean. The basic principles of hydrography then underpin a description of various key water masses of the World Ocean, introducing the importance of mixing. Reviewing the key equations of conservation for mass, heat, salt and momentum paves the way to understand ocean currents and circulation. The momentum balance for large-scale ocean currents is developed in various ways, to explain the response of the ocean to wind forcing in particular, explaining the existence of ocean gyres and western boundary currents. Bringing several of the preceding themes together, the global ocean circulation and large-scale ocean modelling is introduced, underpinning the role of the ocean in the climate system. Finally, the character and importance of various types of waves are emphasized. By the end of course you wil be able to describe and explain oceanographic phenomena on spatial scales ranging from coastal to global, and on time scales ranging from seconds to centuries. The module will include some practical classes and boatwork. Mathematics will be used throughout the course to give precision to the physical processes.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal Lecture provide an introduction to the observations and theory underpinning physical oceanography. Practical Classes (all formatively assessed): 3 problem solving sessions, 'Currents', 'Waves' and 'Climate', combining observations and theory to develop the practical skills used in physical oceanography; a timed class test; a final exam advice session Boatwork (summatively assessed): 2 sessions of boatwork will train you in a wide range of physical oceanography measurements (currents, mixing, optical properties). Computer Practicals (formatively assessed): 2 sessions, 'Upper Ocean Physics & Seasonality' and 'Water Masses & Heat Budgets', analysing oceanographic data, to reinforce understanding needed for the exam. A wide range of support is available for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Independent Study112
Practical classes and workshops18
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 60%
Practical 40%

Linked modules


To study this module, you will need to have studied the following module(s):

SOES1004Physical Oceanography I
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