Physical Oceanography (PO)

Female researcher securing line on equipment on deck of research vessel.
Scripps' Jennifer Mackinnon and Drew Lucas were among an international team of oceanographers and meteorologists who took part in an Office of Naval Research-funded project called MISO-BoB.

Information for the Physical Oceanography PhD program and Master's degree programs

Physical Oceanography is the field of study that deals with mechanisms of energy transfer through the sea and across its boundaries, and with the physical interactions of the sea with its surroundings, especially including the influence of the seas on the climate of the atmosphere. Research activities within this curricular group are both observational and theoretical and include:

Requirements for Admission

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the PhD program listed here, a major in a physical science, including three years of physics and mathematics, is required.

Program of Study for PhD

Students admitted to Climate-Ocean-Atmosphere Program (COAP) choose a curricular group by the end of the fall quarter. This choice is aided by the student’s guidance committee, which includes a chair from one of the COAP curricular groups. The guidance committee will help to arrange an individually tailored set of first-year courses for the student, and to ensure that the student has taken all necessary courses to prepare for the departmental exam.

During the year, students may be supported in a variety of ways, but by the end of the spring quarter students must choose a research adviser. After the first year the guidance committee is dissolved, and the research adviser and dissertation committee provide guidance.

The physical oceanography curriculum combines a comprehensive program of course work with individually tailored specialization to meet student needs. At the start of each quarter during the first year, the guidance committee meets with students to help them select coursework appropriate for their individual research interests. For example, students might choose to focus on observational physical oceanography, theoretical physical oceanography, or atmosphere/ocean interactions.

Students in all areas of physical oceanography are required to take SIOC 203A-B, 214A, and 212A. A total of twelve (12) four-unit graduate courses are required in the first year, for letter grade, unless granted a waiver. Four (4) addition four-unit graduate courses in the 2nd year or later at either letter or S/U.

As part of the overall requirement, coursework should include a breadth component of two or more four-unit courses in other scientific disciplines. These might come from the Scripps Oceanography core courses in other oceanographic disciplines (SIOG 240, 260, SIOB 280) or from related graduate-level courses taught at UC San Diego.

Physical oceanography students are required to take the departmental examination after completing one year of graduate work at UC San Diego. The examination covers the material in the four required courses and in the eight additional first-year graduate courses chosen by the student in consultation with the guidance committee chair.

The Department of Scripps Institution of Oceanography offers regular seminars in several areas of current interest. After the departmental exam, students in residence are strongly encouraged to enroll for credit in at least one one-unit seminar each quarter.

Program of Study for MS

The physical oceanography curriculum combines a comprehensive program of course work with individually tailored specialization to meet student needs.

Required course work (20 units selected from the following designated courses):

  • SIOC 203A and SIOC 203B. Introduction to Applied Mathematics I-II (4 units each)
  • SIOC 210. Physical Oceanography (4 units)
  • SIOC 212A and SIOC 212B. Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I-II (4 units each)
  • SIOC 214A. Introduction to Fluid Mechanics (4 units)
  • SIOC 221A and SIOC 221B. Analysis of Physical Oceanographic Data A-B (4 units each)

Elective course work:

Students may fulfill the remaining units of required course work through elective course offerings selected in consultation with the students’ guidance committee. These might come from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography core courses in other oceanographic disciplines (SIOG 240 Marine Geology; SIOG 260 Marine Chemistry; SIOB 280 Biological Oceanography) or from related graduate-level courses taught at UC San Diego.

Research in Physical Oceanography

Physical Oceanography Faculty and Researchers: