Course Material

Earth's Oceans (Fall 2018)

MWF, 11.00 to 11.50, S. Mudd 162
Course instructor: Andy Thompson, Office: L+R 224, Office hours: Tuesdays, 3:30-5:00
Teaching assistant: John Naviaux, Office: L+R 227, Recitations: Wednesdays, 3:00-4:00

Reading: W&F = Williams and Follows; S&G = Sarmiento and Gruber

Course syllabus

This course will provide an introduction to physical, chemical and biological properties of Earth's ocean. Due to the limited duration of the course (10 weeks), the material will center primarily on those aspects of the ocean that most strongly impact the marine carbon cycle. Topics to be covered include: the phenomenology and distribution of temperature, salinity, and tracers as well as how oceanographic observations are collected; fundamentals of ocean dynamics, such as Ekman layers, wind-driven gyres, and the meridional overturning circulation; biological and chemical properties underlying the carbon cycle, such as simple plankton population models, Redfield ratios, air-sea gas exchange, productivity and respiration, carbonate chemistry. We will conclude with a brief discussion of changes in ocean circulation over Earth's history and its impact on past climate changes.

Problem Sets & Worksheets

Reading topic suggestions
Reading: Final report instructions
Water mass worksheet

Problem set 1, due October 26
Weddell Sea CTD section

Problem set 2, due November 12
Alk-DIC-pCO2 data

Problem set 3, due November 30
Glider SG502
Glider SG510
Matlab file
Color maps

Part 1: Satellites to Seafloor: Overview of the ocean system

Reading: Chapters 1 and 2, W&F; Chapter 1, S&G

Lecture 1 (Oct. 1): Why the ocean matters in the climate system
Additional reading: Taking the pulse of the planet, Cheng et al. (2017)

Lecture 2 (Oct.3): What does the ocean look like and how do we observe it?
Additional reading: Riser et al. (2016)

Lecture 3 (Oct. 5): Seawater properties
Additional reading: Talley et al. Ch. 3

Lecture 4 (Oct. 8): The ocean's boundaries: seafloor, air-sea exchange, ocean-ice interactions
Notes: Ocean boundary conditions and water masses

Part 2: The physical circulation

Reading: Chapters 4 & 8, W&F

Lecture 5 (Oct. 10): Tracer conservation and transport basics
Reading: Chapter 3.1-3.2, W&F
Notes: Transport fundamentals, (updated 10.10.18)

Lecture 6 (Oct. 12): Rotation and force balance
Reading: W&F, Ch. 4.1
Notes: Force balance and Coriolis

Lecture 7 (Oct. 15 & 17): Balanced motion: Ekman and geostrophy
Reading: W&F, 4.2, 4.3
Notes: Balanced motions, (pages 5-9 provide advanced material that is for interest and will not be covered in class)

Oct. 18: Field trip, Wrigley Marine Institue, Catalina

Lecture 8 (Oct. 19): Wind-driven gyres
Reading: W&F, 4.4.1, 8.1-8.3
Notes: Sverdrup balance and gyres

Lecture 9 (Oct. 22): The overturning circulation
Additional reading: Talley (2013)
Notes: The overturning circulation

Lecture 10 (Oct. 24): Changes in the overturning circulation: glacial-interglacial cycles

Optional lecture (ESE 104, Oct. 25, 12.00-1.00): High latitudes and small scales

Part 3: Carbonate chemistry in the ocean

Reading: Chapter 6, W&F
Additional reading: Chapter 8, S&G

Lecture 12 (Oct. 26): Solubility of CO2, carbonate reactions and air-sea exchange I
Reading: W&F, 6.1, 6.2; S&G 8.2
Additional reading: Takahashi et al. (2002)
Notes: Inorganic carbon chemistry

Lecture 13 (Oct. 29): Solubility of CO2, carbonate reactions and air-sea exchange II
Reading: W&F, 6.5, 6.6
Notes: Air-sea exchange

Lecture 14 (Oct. 31): Surface ocean distributions of DIC
Reading: W&F, 6.3, S&G, 8.3 (pp. 327-334)
Notes: Surface ocean DIC

Lecture 15 (Nov. 2): Carbon pumps and water column distribution, part I
Reading: W&F, 13.1, 13.2, S&G, 8.4 (pp. 342-349)
Notes: Carbon pumps

Lecture 16 (Nov. 5): Carbon pumps and water column distribution, part II
Notes: see previous lecture

Lecture 17 (Nov. 7): Calcium carbonate cycle
Reading: W&F, 6.4, 13.3
Additional reading: Barker et al. (2003)
Notes: Calcium carbonate cycle

Lecture 18 (Nov. 9): Carbon cycle, CO2 and climate
Reading: W&F, 13.1-13.3

November 12: JPL short-talks and panel discussion

Part 4: Biogeochemical cycling

Reading: Chapters 5 & 11, W&F
Additional reading: Chapter 4, S&G

Lecture 19 (Nov. 14): Organic matter production
Reading: W&F, 5.1, 5.2, S&G, 4.1
Additional reading: Boyd et al. (2000)
Notes: Productivity overview

Lecture 20 (Nov. 16): Nutrient and light limitations
Reading: W&F, 5.3
Notes: Nutrient and light limitation

Lecture 21 (Nov. 19): Critical depth hypothesis and simple ecosystem models
Reading: W&F, 5.4, S&G, 4.3 (pp. 138-145)
Notes: Critical depth and spring blooms
Additional reading: Behrenfeld (2010)


Lecture 22 (Nov. 26): Export production
Reading: W&F, 5.5
Notes: Surface nitrogen cycle

Lecture 23 (Nov. 27): Ecosystem dynamics: N-P-Z models
Reading: W&F, 5.5; S&G Ch. 4.3

Lecture 24 (Nov. 28): Interior nutrient and oxygen distributions
Reading: W&F, 11.3

Special topics

Lecture 25 (Dec. 3): The export and fate of carbon in the ocean
Slides, updated Dec. 3
Additional reading: Siegel et al. (2016)

Lecture 26 (Dec. 5): Lightning talks

Lecture 27 (Dec. 7): Glacial cycles
Reading: W&F, 13.3; Sigman et al. (2010)

California Institute of Technology  |  Environmental Science & Engineering  |  Web Development: Iryna Chatila