Physical Oceanography

General Information

METEO 551: Physical Oceanography

Fall 2019 Semester 

COURSE DESCRIPTION. This course introduces graduate and advanced undergraduate students in the sciences and engineering to the circulation of the ocean and the theories used to explain it. The focus is on the large-scale circulation driven by winds, buoyancy, and tidal forces. The course will also cover the distributions of temperature and salinity in the ocean, the surface ocean mixed layer, mesoscale eddies, and internal waves. 

COURSE OBJECTIVES. Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe the large-scale circulation systems of the ocean, including the large horizontal gyres in the upper portion of the major ocean basins, the overturning circulation that extends throughout the water column, the intensification of currents along the western sides of major ocean basins, and the large-scale tidal systems
  • Demonstrate a quantitative understanding of the roles of winds, surface heat and fresh water fluxes, and gravity of the sun and moon in generating the large-scale circulation systems of the ocean
  • Describe the processes that lead to the formation of mesoscale eddies and internal waves in the ocean
  • Have a broad appreciation of the roles that the ocean plays in the climate system and in biogeochemical cycles
  • Describe in oral and written forms how physical oceanography is related to their discipline of study, graduate research, or both 


TIME: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:35 AM – 2:50 PM, and Fridays 2:00–3:15 (see detailed course schedule) 

PLACE: 101 Leonhard Building (Tuesdays and Thursdays), 9 Walker Building (Fridays). 

INSTRUCTOR: Raymond Najjar, Professor, Department of Meteorology & Atmos. Sci.
Office: 522 Walker Building               
Phone: 863-1586       
Mailbox: 532 Walker Building            
Electronic mailbox: 

PREREQUISITES. If you don’t have any prior knowledge of fluid dynamics, then you should do some reading on your own to get up to speed. If that is the case for you, see me if you haven’t already. 

REQUIRED READING MATERIAL. The required textbook is: Klinger, B. and T. Haine. 2019. Ocean Circulation in Three Dimensions. Cambridge University Press. The electronic version of the text is available to Penn State students by PDF download. I have also put the book on the course web site (Canvas). A hard copy of the book is also on course reserve in the EMS library.

OPTIONAL READING MATERIAL. I have placed several other textbooks either on the course web site, when available electronically, or as a hard copy in the EMS library, when not. 

EVALUATION. You will be evaluated through (1) equally weighted problems sets (50%), (2) a midterm exam (20%) and (3) a final exam (30%). Problem sets will be every 1–2 weeks. The grade scale is as follows:  A: 92–100%; A–: 88–91%; B+: 84–87%; B: 80–83%; B–: 75–79%; C+: 71–74%; C: 63–70%; D: 50–62%; F: <50% 

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY POLICY: I expect all submitted work to be your own. Feel free to discuss homework assignments with others, but never copy another’s work. Students who present other people's work as their own will receive at least a 0 on the assignment and may well receive an F or XF in the course.  Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy:, which this course adopts. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students."

INSTRUCTOR AVAILABILITY. 3:30–5:00 on Tuesdays and 1:30–3:00 on Wednesdays. For other times, feel free to drop by my office, call me, or email me. If you want to guarantee seeing me in person outside of office hours, then make an appointment by calling or emailing me. 

SYLLABUS: See detailed course schedule 

ASSISTANCE WITH TEXTBOOKS. Penn State honors and values the socioeconomic diversity of our students. If you require assistance with the costs of textbooks for this course, contact the Office of Student Care and Advocacy (120 Boucke Building, 863-4926, For additional need related to socioeconomic status please visit

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws. 

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website ( 

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation: If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.


This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11:, and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: Please also see Illness Verification Policy:, and Religious Observance Policy: Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work, including exams and quizzes.  Students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel in the case of illness or injury and should use their best judgment on whether they are well enough to attend class or not; the University Health Center will not provide medical verification for minor illnesses or injuries. Other legitimate reasons for missing class include religious observance, military service, family emergencies, regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities, and post-graduate, career-related interviews when there is no opportunity for students to re-schedule these opportunities (such as employment and graduate school final interviews).  Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs (AVPSA) and Student Care and Advocacy for help:  Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form:, at least one week prior to the activity.

Weather Delays

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Counseling and Psychological Services
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