12.804 | Fall 2009 | Graduate

Large-scale Flow Dynamics Lab


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


Fluid Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Ocean (12.800)


Quasi-balanced Circulations in Oceans and Atmospheres (12.803)


This is a laboratory course intended to illustrate the concepts presented in 12.803. We will analyze observations of oceanic and atmospheric quasi-balanced flows, computational models, and rotating tank experiments. The projects will illustrate the basic principles of potential vorticity conservation and inversion, Rossby wave propagation, baroclinic instability and the behavior of isolated vortices.


  1. Geostrophic Adjustment
    • Response to initial conditions
    • Response to slow forcing
  2. Quasi-geostrophic Balance
    • Validity of geostrophic approximation
    • Corrections
  3. Invertability and superposition principles
    • 2D inversion
    • 3D
    • Superposition
  4. Rossby Waves and Frontal Waves
    • Forced Rossby waves
    • Waves on a PV front, comparison to Rossby waves
    • Nonlinear dynamics, Rossby wave instabilities
  5. Higher Order Balance
  6. Baroclinic Instability
    • Linear growth
    • Nonlinear dynamics - secondary instability, PV fluxes
  7. Ageostrophic Motion


Grading is based on lab writeups and presentations.