65990 - Structure and Dynamics of Atmosphere and Ocean

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Climate Action Oceans

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

The course is meant to give the basic knowledge of hydrodynamics and thermodynamics for the ocean and the atmosphere both at the mathematical-physical level and the phenomenological one. The course starts by illustrating the climatological structure of the ocean and the atmosphere, vertical and horizontal, winds and currents, and discussing the radiative balance of the Earth and it ends with fundamental equations for atmospheric and oceanic motion and their useful approximations.

Course contents

Part I
1. Introduction to the vertical structure of the atmosphere and ocean
2. Solar radiation, radiative balance and greenhouse effect
3. Climatological structure of the atmospheric and oceanic circulation
4. El Nino and La Nina phenomenon
5. The Monsoon and the teleconnections, including the North Atlantic Oscillation

Part II
The basic concepts of fluid dynamics applied to the Earth system
The advective derivative
The equation of motion and internal/external forces: Navier-Stokes equations
Gravity, pressure and shear stresses
Transformation of the equations in the Earth rotating system
Coriolis acceleration
The continuity equation
Reynolds turbulence theory
Thermodynamics for ocean and atmosphere
Sea Water equation of state
Atmospheric equation of state
Scale analysis of the equations of motion
Boussinesq, incompressible and hydrostatic approximations
Geostrophic currents and winds
Gravitational stability and stratification conditions

Exercises in class are done at the end of the lectures


Peixoto, J P and Oort, A H, Physics of Climate, 1992

Marshall J and R.A. Plumb, Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Dynamics, an introductory text, 2008, Academic Press - https://globusgreen.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/atmosphere-ocean-climate-dynamics-marshall-plumb.pdf -

Pinardi, N., Note di Struttura e dinamica dell'atmosfera e oceano, 2020

Teaching methods

Frontal lessons for 6 credits and 1 credit of class exercises

Assessment methods

The tests will be two:

1) an essay on current topics of dynamics of the atmosphere and ocean;

2) a written test in class with exercises on the second part of the course

The final mark will be the arithmetic average of the two marks.

Teaching tools

Several videos from the international community will be used and a laboratory experiment will be developed to show the effects of salt on stratification.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Nadia Pinardi

See the website of Lorenzo Mentaschi