Ocean Dynamics and the Carbon Cycle

Course content

In this course we will discuss three of the world's ocean major circulation systems and how they support the marine ecosystem: the subtropical gyre, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and the meridional overturning circulation. The focus will be on the manipulation of the equations of motion to derrive simple analytical models of these systems. Observations and numerical models will then be used to fill these equations with life.


MSc Programme in Physics

Learning outcome

The purpose of this course is that the student obtains a basic understanding of the dynamics of the large scale circulation, and the carbon cycle.

When the course is finished it is expected that the student is able to:

  • Explain the energetic of the meridional overturning circulation
  • Understand the relevance of friction and mixing for the ocean circulation
  • Explain the main components of the marine carbon cycle.
  • Set up, run, and analyze a full Earth system model

The course introduces the student to the equations of motion for a continuous medium. The student will learn how to use scaling analysis to reduce the complexity of partial differential equations. Finally the student will combine the resulting equations with observations and numerical model results to relate the different forcing mechanisms to the relevant part of the ocean circulation.

Lectures. Weekly hand-in exercises.

See Absalon for final course material. The following is an example of suggested course material:


'Ocean Dynamics and the Carbon Cycle' by Williams and Follows.

A good understanding of classical mechanics. The math requisites are understanding of partial differential equations.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

The course is identical to NFYK14027U Steady Ocean Circulation.
It is not allowed to pass both courses.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 25 minutes
oral exam without preparation time.
Without aids
Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
No external censorship
several internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

see learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 30
  • Preparation
  • 145,5
  • Exercises
  • 30
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • English
  • 206,0