Introductory Oceanography Themes Covered in This Course


I. Plate Tectonics, Seafloor Physiology, and Marine Sediments Theme (Exam 1)

A. History of Oceanography

1.  What were the interests of ancient civilizations in oceanography? 

2.  Who, and how did the oceans get explored?

3.  What were the major questions that early explorers asked about the oceans?

4.  How did early explorers figure out where they were when out of sight of land?

       Specifically, cover Polynesian exploration, Viking exploration, and Captain Cook’s voyages.

B. Earth Formation

1.  Age of universe/Big Bang theory

2.  Age of earth

3.  Age of ocean basins

4.  How are these ages determined?

5.  Where did the ocean water come from?

6.  Evolution of the atmosphere

C. Earth’s Interior

1. Overall structure vs depth –crust/mantle/core

2. Temperature vs depth

3. Crust/mantle/core

D. Ocean Basin Physiology

1. Names and locations of oceans, continents, and seas

2. Ocean basins regions: shelf, slope, rise, ..

3. Major features on the seafloor

4. Difference between continents and ocean basins: why are continents higher than the ocean floor?

5. Life at mid-ocean ridges


E. Plate Tectonics

1. Theory of plate tectonics

2.  Sea floor Spreading

3.  Transform

4.  Subduction

5.  Relationship between plate boundaries and observable phenomena

a. Topography

b. Quakes

c. Volcanoes

d. Island chains

e. Seafloor age

6.  Miscellaneous facts about plate tectonics

a.Age of oldest ocean crust, and where is it?

b. Be able to draw tectonic map (rough) of Atlantic and Pacific ocean basins, showing locations

      of the major divergent, convergent, and transform boundaries.


F. After this theme, students should be able to:

1. Identify the continents and ocean basins on a world map

2. Draw an approximate tectonic map on a gray-scale physiographic map of the world

3. Use topography, quakes, volcanoes, and age data to identify a plate boundary type.

4. Be able to argue for the theory of plate tectonics, citing evidence and earth data.


II. Seawater Properties, Atmosphere and Ocean Circulation Systems Theme (Exam 2)

A. Properties of Water

1. How water is special (molecular geometry)

2. Freezing and boiling points

3. Heat capacity

4. Latent heat and transfer of heat through evaporation and condensation

B. Seawater and Its Composition

1. Definition of Salinity

2. Constituents, major and minor, dissolved gases, nutrients

        a. Heat

        b. Salts (major constituents)

        c. Dissolved gases

        d. Nutrients

         e. Trace elements

3. Balance of constituents:

                                 a. Possible sources and sinks

    i. Sun

    ii. Atmosphere

    iii. Rivers

    iv. Mid-ocean ridge hot springs

                                 b. Residence time

                                c. Rivers vs mid-ocean ridge inputs

4. Transport of constituents

         a. Wind-driven transport

         b. Density transport (vertical)

   i. Relationship between density, temperature, and salinity

         c. Atmospheric transport

   i. Evaporation

   ii. Rainfall

  iii. Airborne, aerosols

C. Ocean Structure

            1. Vertical structure

                    a. Thermocline

                    b. Halocline

                    c. Pycnocline

                    d. Latitudinal variations

            2. Classification and distribution of ocean water masses

                    a. Surface water masses

                    b. Intermediate water masses

                    c. Deep water masses

                    d. Bottom water masses

D. Atmosphere and Atmospheric Circulation

1. Buoyancy and air density

                               a. Function of temp, humidity,

2. Vertical structure. Troposphere, tropopause, etc. Vertical stratification.

3. Average earth surface temperature and atmospheric heating

4. Overall circulation pattern, no Coriolis effect

5. Coriolis effect and circulation  (show Coriolis animations)

6. Quick scat wind animations

7. Global circulation pattern (data), circulation cells, height of cells.

8. Wind zones: “roaring 40’s”, trades, doldrums, horse latitudes.

9. Rainfall and climate zones

10. Heat transport by the atmosphere

11.  Effect of continents

12.  Monsoons

13.  Island weather

E. Data Relevant to Atmospheric Circulation

1. Global average temperatures, hotter at equator

2. Global winds and wind zones

3. Rainfall


F. Ocean Surface Circulation

1. Wind driven

a. west wind and trade wind belts   

b. Ekman spiral

c. Upwelling (now we can explain the cold water in the eastern part of the ocean basins).

2. Major patterns of surface circulation –

a.  Ocean basin-wide geostrophic gyres

b.  Western, eastern, and transverse surface currents

c.  Countercurrents and undercurrents

d. Westward intensification

c. Gulf stream, and California current – focus examples

3. El Nino, caused by air-sea interaction

G. Deep Ocean Circulation

1. Data relevant to deep ocean circulation (we know what the constituents are, so let’s look at some cross-sections and see if we can interpret them).

a. Temperature

b. Salinity

c. Nutrients

d. Dissolved gases

2. Temperature/Salinity/Density (review)

3. Shallow mixing due to wind and Ekman spiral.

4. Deep circulation patterns

      a.  Water masses NADW, etc.

      b. Speed of deep currents

      c. Age of water

5. Thermal conveyor belt


 III. Waves and Shorelines Theme  (Exam 3)

A. Classification and Propagation of Ocean Waves

1.  Types of ocean waves 

2.  Wave velocity vs wavelength

2.  Deep and shallow water wave velocities

3.  Breaking waves

4.  Refraction, reflection, diffraction

B. Origin and Nature of Wind Waves

1.  Storms and their effect of wave size and distribution

2.  The “Force” scale

            3.  Analyze current wave data from the web

            C. Origin and Nature of Tsunami

                        1.  Triggering mechanisms and wave behavior

                        2.  Tsunami as a coastal hazard

                        3.  Early detection and warning

D. Origin and Nature of Tides

                        1.  Earth, Moon and Sun and tidal patterns

                        2.  Effects of tides on coastal regions

                        3.  Tides and marine life        

E. Classification, Anatomy, and Processes of Shorelines

1.  Erosional vs depositional processes and features

2.  Primary vs secondary types

3.  Beaches, terraces, bluffs, and estuaries

F. Effect of Waves on Shorelines

1.  Winter and summer beaches (high energy and low energy)

2.  Longshore and rip currents and the transport of sand

3.  Harbors, seawalls, and other beach structures

4.  Coastal erosion and mitigation

5. Waves and surfing


IV. Marine Life, Resources, and Environmental Concerns Theme  (Final Exam )

A. Classification, evolution, habitats, physical factors, and nutrient distribution

1.    Classification of marine life

a.  Plants: phytoplankton

b.  Animal

c.  Relative biological mass of marine life types

2.    Evolution Theory of marine life

a.  Examination of the theory

b.  Marine fossil record

c.  Explanation, predictions and significance

3.    Marine Habitats

4.    What are the essential conditions that support marine life?

a. Light

     i. Photosynthesis and respiration

      ii.  Penetration of light into seawater

b. Nutrients

       i.  Oxygen

                   ii.  CO2

                   iii.  Nitrate

                   iv.  Phosphate

                    v.  Cycling of nutrients, food web

c. Sources and sinks of nutrients

d. Transport of nutrients

                    i. Atmosphere

                    ii. Ocean currents

                    iii. Upwelling and mixing

                    iv.  Sinking and deposition

B. Primary Productivity

1.  What is “primary productivity?”

2.  Who are the primary producers?

                        3.  Controlling factors and Distribution of primary production

            4.  The ocean’s biological pump and it’s crucial role in sustaining life on this planet

C. Focus on the Various Phyla of Marine Animals

1.  Invertebrates

2.  Fishes

3.  Birds and reptiles

3.  Mammals

D. Communities of Marine Life

1. Open ocean

2. The benthos

3  Shorelines  


E. Ocean Fishing Issues

1. What are the major “fisheries?”

2. Overfishing

      a. What is “sustainable” fishing and what are the parameters that must be considered when planning a sustainable fishery?

i.   Reproduction rate

ii.  Harvest rate

iii. Habitat size

iv.  Availability of food source

     b. What are some examples of species that have been overfished and what policies have been implemented to help the fisheries recover?

i.   New England Cod

ii.  Sardine fishery in Peru

iii.  Whale harvests

iv.  Tuna and swordfish

v.   Orange roughy

     c. What are some of the fishing techniques that contribute to loss of species?

i.   Drift nets

ii.  By-catch issues

iii.  Environmental damage to habitat (trawling)

     d. What about fish farming? What are the positive and negative effects of fish farming?

3. Fishing Policies

a.  Who are the “stakeholders?”

b.  What is “tragedy of the commons?”

c.  Catch limits

d.  Marine reserves and “no take zones”

e.  Southern California Offshore Waters

f.   FishBanks game

F. Non-biological Marine Resources

1.  Hydrocarbon deposits

2.  Mineral bottom deposits

            3.  Dissolved mineral ions

            4.  Fresh water from desalinization

            5.  Transportation

            6.  Recreation

G. Ocean Pollution

1. What is “pollution”?

2. Types of marine pollution

3.  Pollution sources

4.  Severity of the problem

5.  Possible solutions

H. Climate

1.  Equilibrium temperature of earth, a balance between incoming and outgoing solar energy

2.  Greenhouse effect

3.  Climate history from ice cores, tree rings, etc.

4.  The climate “system”

5.  Climate feedback

         a.  Positive and negative feedback

6.  Heat transfer from equator to poles: ocean currents vs atmospheric circulation

7.  Carbon cycle and CO2

8.  Global warming and melting glaciers and polar ice

I.  Environmental Issues and The World Ocean Citizen

1.  Understand how the ocean, atmosphere, and human activities might influence environmental

        systems that affect the welfare of a specific country.

2. Realize the importance and responsibility of each individual in making educated choices and

       decisions concerning the health of the ocean and the coastal environment.

3. How to take positive personal action in doing the right things towards maintaining and improving the

     health of the ocean and the coastal environment.