Single-Course English 5 ECTS

Physical oceanography

Overall Course Objectives

This course gives students a general introduction to the physics the world’s oceans, shelf seas and estuaries. The course will focus on marine environments, knowledge that can be used both as a platform for more advanced studies of the topic, as a contribution to their development in marine ecology, fisheries and/or aquaculture, and provide a scientific background to sustainable development goals: 13 climate action and 14 life under water.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the major components affecting seawater density, calculate it using the equation of state, and calculate its dynamic influence on fluid flow.
  • Identify the major factors affecting shelf sea dynamics – inflow, winds, tides – and calculate the position of mixing fronts.
  • Identify the physical processes contributing to the spring bloom.
  • Describe the various instruments and technologies involved in ocean observation systems.
  • Use modern software applications (Ocean Data View) to analyse oceanographic data.
  • Construct and interpret box models of through-flow systems such as estuaries to examine the fate of nutrients and contaminants.
  • Calculate the magnitude of geostrophic currents, Ekman pumping, and upwelling, and explain the influence of these on marine productivity.
  • Explain the major features of wind driven surface circulation, atmosphere-ocean coupling, the meridional overturn circulation and their influence on climate.

Course Content

Physical properties of seawater.
Oceanic heat budget.
Dynamics of density & wind driven flows, tides, and waves.
Seasonal cycles of stratification and mixing; the spring bloom and tidal mixing fronts.
Estuaries and semi-enclosed basins.
Planetary rotation, and geostrophy.
Wind driven ocean circulation
Descriptive Regional Oceanography
The meridional overturn circulation
Oceans and climate.

Teaching Method

Lectures, guest lectures, computer & analytic exercises, project and excursion.



This course provides students with competences relevant to UN SDGs, particularly #13 (Climate action) and #14 (Life below water)

See course in the course database.





13 weeks




DTU Lyngby Campus

Course code 25302
Course type Candidate
Semester start Week 35
Semester end Week 48
Days Wed 13-17

7.500,00 DKK