12.950 | Spring 2004 | Graduate

Atmospheric and Oceanic Modeling


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

The numerical methods, formulation and parameterizations used in models of the circulation of the atmosphere and ocean will be described in detail. Widely used numerical methods will be the focus but we will also review emerging concepts and new methods. The numerics underlying a hierarchy of models will be discussed, ranging from simple GFD models to the high-end GCMs. In the context of ocean GCMs, we will describe parameterization of geostrophic eddies, mixing and the surface and bottom boundary layers.

The course will be graded for credit, based on problem sets and a project. These will entail hands-on use of the material covered in lectures.


  • The finite difference method
  • Spatial discretization and numerical dispersion
  • Series expansion methods
  • Time-stepping methods
  • Space-time discretization
  • Discretization in more than one dimension
  • Shallow water dynamics and numerical dispersion
  • Barotropic models
  • Quasi-geostrophic equations
  • Quasi-geostrophic models
  • Eddy parameterization
  • The primitive equations
  • Vertical coordinates
  • Boundary layer parameterizations
  • Parameterizing geostrophic eddies
  • Overview and summary of GCM issues

Exams and grading: There will be no exams. Grading will be apportioned 50% problem sets and 50% project.