MTMW11-Fluid Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Oceans

Module Provider: Meteorology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Prof Bob Plant


Summary module description:
The atmosphere and oceans support motions on a vast range of scales - from planetary to molecular. Although the fundamental equations of fluid dynamics have been known since the 1850s, solutions are still only known for very idealised situations. Fluids support diverse phenomena such as vortices and wave motions. These typically make fluid flow vary with time, and result in chaotic behaviour that limits predictability . This module starts from first principles to build up the equations of fluid dynamics for situations with increasing complexity including the effects of friction, density stratification and the Earth's rotation. Approximations are then introduced which help us to understand important fluid phenomena that emerge.


  • To derive the differential equations governing the evolution of fluid flows from physical principles
  • To examine the phenomena supported by fluid motion: laminar flows, waves, vortices and turbulence
  • Analyse approximations that are appropriate to describe the atmosphere and oceans on different scales.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able to:

  • Recognise the laws of physics applied to a fluid in the form of partial differential equations and to give physical interpretation of the various terms.
  • Recognise and interpret the new terms that are introduced as a consequence of the Earth’s rotation.
  • Apply the techniques of scale analysis to deduce the dominant processes operating in various examples of fluid flow, and to approximate the equations in various limits.
  • Understand the concept of vorticity and use that concept to explain the properties of Rossby waves.
  • To analyse the results of laboratory experiments and compare them with theoretical predictions.

Additional outcomes:
The student is expected to reach a level of understanding and experience at which different fluid motions can be identified and links can be made to the underlying physical mechanisims.

Outline content:
1. Fluids and flow kinematics
2. Fluid dynamics for Incompressible flows
3. Effects of rotation
4. Effects of density variations
5. Combined effects of rotation and stratification
6. Effects of earth geometry
7. Vorticity and circulation
8. Rossby waves
9. Potential vorticity

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module will be based around lectures, with associated problem sheets. There will be opportunities for class discussion of some problems. The laboratory classes will give students the opportunity to study various relevant fluid flows directly.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 18
Tutorials 9
Practicals classes and workshops 12
Guided independent study 161
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Report 30
Class test administered by School 70

Other information on summative assessment:
By examination (70%) and assignments based on laboratory experiment write-ups (30%). Higher degree candidates who wish to participate in the laboratory classes should consult with the module convenor and their supervisor. Two hour exam with a choice of 2 from 3 questions in January.

Formative assessment methods:
Nine problem sheets linked to the lectures will match the one-hour tutorial sessions.

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:

Length of examination:
2 hour exam with a choice of two from three questions in January.

Requirements for a pass:
A mark of at least 50% overall.

Reassessment arrangements:
For candidates who have failed, an opportunity to take a resit examination will be provided within the lifetime of the course.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
1) Required text books: Reading lists for meteorology modules are available here

2) Specialist equipment or materials:
3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
4) Printing and binding:
5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

Last updated: 21 December 2016

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