Introduction to Physical Oceanography

Written by: Robert Stewart (Texas A&M University)

While Robert H. Stewart, the author of Introduction to Physical Oceanography, states that he has minimized the math in his textbook, he does suggest students will need to be familiar with differential equations and introductory college physics first. [For reviews of either subject, check out our lists of free online differential equations textbooks and free online physics textbooks.]

Introduction to Physical Oceanography has been used to teach upper-division undergraduates and graduate students studying oceanography, meteorology and ocean engineering. It describes “physical-oceanographic processes, theories, data and measurements.” And, it includes discussions of “heat fluxes, the role of the ocean in climate, the deep circulation, equatorial processes including El Nino, data bases used by oceanographers, the role of satellites and data from space, ship-based measurements, and the importance of vorticity in understanding oceanic flows.”

There have been several revisions made to this text and while the last posted revisions were made in 2008, the file dates would infer that an additional update may have been made as late as November of 2014.

Table of Contents for Introduction to Physical Oceanography

1 A Voyage of Discovery

1.1 Physics of the ocean

1.2 Goals

1.3 Organization

1.4 The Big Picture

1.5 Further Reading

2 The Historical Setting

2.1 Definitions

2.2 Eras of Oceanographic Exploration

2.3 Milestones in the Understanding of the Ocean

2.4 Evolution of some Theoretical Ideas

2.5 The Role of Observations in Oceanography

2.6 Important Concepts

3 The Physical Setting

3.1 Ocean and Seas

3.2 Dimensions of the ocean

3.3 Sea-Floor Features

3.4 Measuring the Depth of the Ocean

3.5 Sea Floor Charts and Data Sets

3.6 Sound in the Ocean

3.7 Important Concepts

4 Atmospheric Influences

4.1 The Earth in Space

4.2 Atmospheric Wind Systems

4.3 The Planetary Boundary Layer

4.4 Measurement of Wind

4.5 Calculations of Wind

4.6 Wind Stress

4.7 Important Concepts

5 The Oceanic Heat Budget

5.1 The Oceanic Heat Budget

5.2 Heat-Budget Terms

5.3 Direct Calculation of Fluxes

5.4 Indirect Calculation of Fluxes: Bulk Formulas

5.5 Global Data Sets for Fluxes

5.6 Geographic Distribution of Terms

5.7 Meridional Heat Transport

5.8 Variations in Solar Constant

5.9 Important Concepts

6 Temperature, Salinity, and Density

6.1 Definition of Salinity

6.2 Definition of Temperature

6.3 Geographical Distribution

6.4 The Oceanic Mixed Layer and Thermocline

6.5 Density

6.6 Measurement of Temperature

6.7 Measurement of Conductivity or Salinity

6.8 Measurement of Pressure

6.9 Temperature and Salinity With Depth

6.10 Light in the Ocean and Absorption of Light

6.11 Important Concepts

7 The Equations of Motion

7.1 Dominant Forces for Ocean Dynamics

7.2 Coordinate System

7.3 Types of Flow in the ocean

7.4 Conservation of Mass and Salt

7.5 The Total Derivative (D/Dt)

7.6 Momentum Equation

7.7 Conservation of Mass: The Continuity Equation

7.8 Solutions to the Equations of Motion

7.9 Important Concepts

8 Equations of Motion With Viscosity

8.1 The Influence of Viscosity

8.2 Turbulence

8.3 Calculation of Reynolds Stress:

8.4 Mixing in the Ocean

8.5 Stability

8.6 Important Concepts

9 Response of the Upper Ocean to Winds

9.1 Inertial Motion

9.2 Ekman Layer at the Sea Surface

9.3 Ekman Mass Transport

9.4 Application of Ekman Theory

9.5 Langmuir Circulation

9.6 Important Concepts

10 Geostrophic Currents

10.1 Hydrostatic Equilibrium

10.2 Geostrophic Equations

10.3 Surface Geostrophic Currents From Altimetry

10.4 Geostrophic Currents From Hydrography

10.5 An Example Using Hydrographic Data

10.6 Comments on Geostrophic Currents

10.7 Currents From Hydrographic Sections

10.8 Lagrangian Measurements of Currents

10.9 Eulerian Measurements

10.10 Important Concepts

11 Wind Driven Ocean Circulation

11.1 Sverdrup’s Theory of the Oceanic Circulation

11.2 Western Boundary Currents

11.3 Munk’s Solution

11.4 Observed Surface Circulation in the Atlantic

11.5 Important Concepts

12 Vorticity in the Ocean

12.1 Definitions of Vorticity

12.2 Conservation of Vorticity

12.3 Influence of Vorticity

12.4 Vorticity and Ekman Pumping

12.5 Important Concepts

13 Deep Circulation in the Ocean

13.1 Defining the Deep Circulation

13.2 Importance of the Deep Circulation

13.3 Theory for the Deep Circulation

13.4 Observations of the Deep Circulation

13.5 Antarctic Circumpolar Current

13.6 Important Concepts

14 Equatorial Processes

14.1 Equatorial Processes

14.2 El Ni˜no

14.3 El Ni˜no Teleconnections

14.4 Observing El Ni˜no

14.5 Forecasting El Ni˜no

14.6 Important Concepts

15 Numerical Models

15.1 Introduction–Some Words of Caution

15.2 Numerical Models in Oceanography

15.3 Global Ocean Models

15.4 Coastal Models

15.5 Assimilation Models

15.6 Coupled Ocean and Atmosphere Models

15.7 Important Concepts

16 Ocean Waves

16.1 Linear Theory of Ocean Surface Waves

16.2 Nonlinear waves

16.3 Waves and the Concept of a Wave Spectrum

16.4 Ocean-Wave Spectra

16.5 Wave Forecasting

16.6 Measurement of Waves

16.7 Important Concepts

17 Coastal Processes and Tides

17.1 Shoaling Waves and Coastal Processes

17.2 Tsunamis

17.3 Storm Surges

17.4 Theory of Ocean Tides

17.5 Tidal Prediction

17.6 Important Concepts


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