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The University of Southampton

SOES1004 Physics of the Ocean

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Have the core foundation on which to study further courses in physical oceanography;
  • Have the necessary level of physical oceanography needed for applications in other discipline areas of oceanography.
  • Have gained basic fieldwork-based practical skills in oceanography;
  • Have a basic knowledge of the observational methods and instrumentation used by physical oceanographers.
  • Be able to interpret mathematical equations in terms of their physical outcomes.
  • Fieldwork-based practical skills
  • Safety awareness and skills
  • Numeracy, statistics and computer literacy.


The module provides students from all levels and disciplines with a core introduction to the physics of the oceans. Whilst maths is central to physics, the module introduces concepts in a descriptive way avoiding the need for A-level mathematics. It will cover the processes and budgets involved in the exchange of heat and water between the atmosphere and ocean, and the relationship to the temperature and salinity structure of the ocean. It will look at the dynamics of the seas - tides, waves, ocean currents - and how they are measured. It will also look at various phenomena such as tsunamis, how whales communicate using sound over great distances, and why the oceans don't freeze as easily as they might! The module includes one practical on the water for each student (working in small groups) where you will study sampling methods and instrumentation, and all students also undertake an assessed tutorial.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal Lectures: 28 lectures will provide a core introduction to the physics of the oceans. Topics covered will include heat budgets and thermal structure of the ocean, waves and tides, ice formation, atmospheric processes. Practical Class: One practical on the water for each student (working in small groups) studying sampling methods and instrumentation Revision Class: The last lecture slot provides an opportunity for students to aim specific questions about the parts of the course not fully understood. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Independent Study112
Practical classes and workshops9
Total study time150


Assessment Strategy

Assessment Method Theory Examination (70%): Two hour examination, four questions answered from seven essay questions. Practical assignment (15%): The practical assignment assesses your ability to report data in a reliable and complete way and to make an initial scientific interpretation of the data set. It also provides the first opportunity to experience working at sea. Tutorial assignment (15%): A work sheet based on aspects of the course.


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessed Tutorials?15%
Practical assignment?15%
Theory examination? (2 hours) 70%
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