ATM S 509/OCEAN 512     SLN: 1548 (ATM), 6180 (OCN)

Tues/Thurs 10.30-11.50, and another hour to be determined, for labs
Lectures in room 205 Ocean Teaching Building (OTB), labs in Ocean Sciences 107, the GFD lab .

Geophysical Fluid Dynamics - I - Winter 2015


Professor P.B.Rhines
Ocean Sciences Building 319
tel: 543-0593
office hours: after class, and by appointment.

Teaching Assistant:

Miguel Jimenez (
Ocean Sciences Building, 206-543-5214.
office hours: to be determined.

Homework & quizzes ø Bulletin Board Grades

Observational Data Course description Prerequisites Outline Textbook Reading Assignments Lecture notes Labs Homework Links

Mt. Rainier with wave clouds



First class: Tuesday Jan 6, 2015 in Room 205 Ocean Teaching Building.

We will ask you to describe:
  • Your fluid dynamics background (courses etc)
  • Your math background
  • Your Matlab experience level (likely greater than ours!).
  • What would you like to get out of this GFD course?


    Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics by Adrian Gill (Academic Press 1982) is our primary text. We have a 'suggested' text, Atmospheric and Oceanic Fluid Dynamics by Geoffrey Vallis (Cambridge University Press, 2006), which is not required. Vallis' text is newer and includes many modern topics, particularly involving vorticity dynamics of synoptic-scale flows. We will give a list of useful sections in Vallis that parallel our lectures and Gill's text.

    There are in addition other fluid dynamics and GFD textbooks and each has its merits:

    • An Introduction to Dynamical Meteorology by James Holton (4th Ed., Academic Press 2004).
    • Geophysical Fluid Dynamics by Joseph Pedlosky (Springer Verlag),
    • sections in Fluid Dynamics by Pijush Kundu and Ira Cohen (4th Edition, Academic Press),
    • Lectures on Geophysical Fluid Dynamics by Rick Salmon (Oxford University Press),
    • Introduction to Circulating Atmospheres by Ian James (Cambridge University Press 1994),
    • Waves in Fluids by James Lighthill (Cambridge University Press, 1978),
    • An Informal Introduction to Theoretical Fluid Mechanics by James Lighthill (Clarendon/Oxford University Press 1986),
    • Fluid Mechanics, 2d Edition by L.D. Landau and L.M. Lifshitz (Butterworth-Heinemann div or Reed Publishing, Ltd. 1959-2000),
    • Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Dynamics, an Introductory Text by John Marshall and Allan Plumb (Elsevier Academic Press, 2008);
    • Fundamentals of Atmospheric Physics by Murray Salby (Academic Press, 1996).

    Vallis' text is available as a .pdf for your laptop or Kindle or IPad, for $80 here. 

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    Reading Assignments

    Week 1 Read Gill: from Chapter 3 and 4 (omitting some sections):

    It would be good to review Lectures 1,2,3 from the fall Fluids course, which are very similar to the 2010 version linked below. The Fluid Dynamics website with course material from 2011 is posted here and the website from the 2014 course just completed should still be on Canvas. But it's handy to have a single .pdf file of the lectures which is linked below. Chap. 1 of Kundu & Cohen's text has similar material to the above sections of Gill and Vallis.

    Week 2

    Lecture notes
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    Observational Data
        Ocean data
        Atmosphere data

    GFD Labs

    Homework and Quizzes

    Outline (syllabus) of the course.


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  • Office hours: see me after class any day, or by appointment at another time. Miguel Jimenez's office hours will be announced soon.

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    Course description Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (GFD) is the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere and oceans. It centers on fluids which have active buoyancy effects through variations in their mass density. It also centers on the effects of the rotating planet: we live on an accelerating frame of reference which affects ordinary Newtonian physics. Finally our planet is nearly spherical, so ideas based on the usual rectangular, Cartesian coordinates will have to change. While our planet of interest is Earth, in the spirit of 'taking a trip so as to undertand better your homeland', GFD applied to Jupiter's deep atmosphere and the liquid iron core of the Earth teaches us about Earth's air and water themselves.

    GFD-1 carries on fairly continuously from Fluid Dynamics, AtmosSci505/AMath505/Ocean511, Fall 2014. We will revisit much of that material so keep Prof. Bretherton's notes handy.

    The GoPost bulletin board is now active. We have not made much use of GoPost in the past, but it may be worth developing this year, for online discussions.

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    Prerequisite courses for GFD-1
    AS505/OC511 Fluid Dynamics or equivalent (consult with instructor).

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