Università degli Studi di Napoli "Parthenope"

Teaching schedule

Academic year: 
Belonging course: 
Course of Bachelor's Degree Programme on NAUTICAL AND AERONAUTICAL SCIENCES
Disciplinary sector: 
Year of study: 
Second semester
Hours of front activity: 


Lectures are in Italian. The professor is available to interact in English in class and during exams

Course description

The course aims to provide students with the basic, theoretical and applied knowledge, of physical oceanography and of the role of the ocean in the Earth's climate system.
- Knowledge and understanding: The student must demonstrate the knowledge of the distribution of the main hydrological characteristics in the global ocean, will be able to interpret the time-space variability in terms of ocean dynamics and to frame it within the system climate.
- Ability to apply knowledge and understanding: The student must demonstrate the ability to interpret hydrological and currentmetric data and to obtain information on vertical stratification and horizontal and vertical velocity fields; To identify the different dynamical regimes that characterize ocean and marginal sea and surface waters at all depths.
- Autonomy of judgment: Students must be able to independently evaluate different situations wrt the standard ones presented by the teacher during the course, and to adopt the best resolution methods.
- Communicative Skills: The student must have the ability to present the course material within an oral examination using the correct scientific language.
- Learning Skills: Students must be able to continue their education in the future through the consultation of texts and publications (mainly in English) in order to acquire the ability to deepen the key topics of Physical Oceanography.


Knowledge provided by the courses of:
- Calculus I and II
- Physics I and I


- Intro (2hrs)
- Chemical-physical properties of sea water and their distribution (16hrs)
Definition of the main properties: temperature, salinity, density.
Properties and formation of sea ice.
Distribution and variability of chemico-physical properties in the ocean basins.

- Balance of water, salt and heat balance in ocean basins. (8hrs)
Knudsen relationships.
Water renewal in the Mediterranean and in the Black Sea.
Heat balance of the oceans.

- Oceanic Dynamics. (28hrs)
Equation of continuity.
Equations of motion.
Major forces in the oceanic dynamics.
Coriolis's force.
Scale analysis of the equations of motion and their most important approximations: traditional approximation, geostrophic balance and its degeneracy.
Rossby number.
Friction. Wind stress at the sea surface.
Ekman spiral, drift currents.
Surface gravity waves, Kelvin waves.

- Large scale ocean circulation. (12hrs)
Winds prevailing at the Earth's surface.
Global wind-driven circulation: subtropical and subpolar gures, Antarctic circumpolar current. Sverdrup's balance.
Potential vorticity and its conservation.
Westward intensification.
Thermohaline circulation: thermocline theories; Intermediate and deep water formation.
Open ocean vorticity equation, justification of deep western boundary currents.

- The global ocean conveyor belt.(2hrs)

- Global Teleconnections: El Nino-Southern Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation. (2hrs)

- Mediterranean counterparts of the large-scale ocean circulation mechanisms. (2hrs)

Teaching Methods

Frontal lessons, integrated with seminars by experts and exercises


- notes and presentations available on the e-learning portal
- for the descriptive part: "Descriptive Physical Oceanography: an introduction, by GL Pickard and WJ Emery (pre-2011 editions).
- for the dynamics part: any dynamical oceanographic book, including the one by R Stewart downloadable from the web: oceanworld.tamu.edu/resources/ocng_textbook/PDF_files/book.pdf

Learning assessment

Oral examination, with an initial threshold question on an example of geostrophic balance in the ocean

More information