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The University of Southampton

SOES6014 Introduction to Physical Oceanography

Module Overview

An introductory module for MSc/MRes students.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

1. To provide an introduction to the physics of the ocean including descriptive and dynamical oceanography. 2. To give an understanding of the processes which control the movement of water, heat and other properties

Learning Outcomes

Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • team working at sea;
  • report writing on fieldwork;
  • time management;
  • problem solving.
Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand the physical processes that control the distribution of water properties and the movement of those properties in the ocean.
  • Understand the range of time and space scales that exist from small scale mixing processes, O(sec, cm) to the global ocean circulation, O(1000years, 10000km).


Topics covered will include: the physical properties of sea water, the dynamics of wind-driven ocean circulation, description of the thermohaline circulation and the role of the ocean in climate variability.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal Lectures: 18 x 50 minute lectures will provide an introduction to the theory underlying the physics of the ocean. Each lecture systematically covers the main concepts and topics via a mixture of PowerPoint presentations, white-board equations and overheads. Lectures are supported by illustrated handout materials. Where relevant, the lecturer's own research experience is brought into the lecturing sessions. References to the applicable chapter of course text and/or relevant journal articles are provided as supplementary reading for each lecture. Practical Sessions: 2 data analysis sessions on mathematical notation and methods. Support: 7 x 50 minute tutorials covering mathematical problems and their solutions will be offered. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Independent Study116
Total study time140

Resources & Reading list

Pond, S. and G. L. Pickard. Introductory Dynamic Oceanography. 

Lacombe, H. Cours D'Oceanographie Physique. 

Stewart, R. H. Introduction to Physical Oceanography. 

Open University. Ocean Circulation. 

Gill, A. E. Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Boatwork report  (400 words) 10%
Theory examination  (1.5 hours) 90%
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