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Scripps Institution of Oceanography: Climate Change and the Ocean 

Department: Marine Science                                   

Instructors: Lauren Hoffman
Instructors' Emails:

Prerequisites: None
Schedule: ~3 hours each day (Mon-Fri) / 15 hours each week

  • 1 hour synchronous lecture / discussion (10am-11am, Mon-Wed)
  • 1 hour student group meeting through Zoom (once weekly, students choice of date & time)
  • 1 hour online tutorials (daily, students choice of time)
  • 1 hour reading / discussion (daily, students choice of time)
  • 1 hour self-assessment (weekly)
  • 2 hour midterm exam (10am-12pm, Friday, July 17, 2020)
  • 1-2 hour synchronous final project meeting (10am, Friday, July 31, 2020) 

Course Description

Climate Change and the Ocean focuses on describing the physical properties of the ocean (i.e. temperature and salinity), and their relation to atmospheric CO2. We will investigate this relationship by, (i) accessing and plotting data from online sources, (ii) analyzing and interpreting these data within the scientific community of our course, (iii) applying these analyses to draw meaningful conclusions about how CO2 impacts the ocean, (iv) communicating our findings to both scientific and lay audiences.

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

  • Accurately describe the physical and chemical properties of the ocean and their relation to climate change
  • Access, plot, and analyze real-world oceanographic data
  • Formulate hypothesis and draw meaningful conclusions from data
  • Communicate scientific results (i) to other scientists and (ii) to a wider audience
  • Students will be able to take charge of their learning and relate their new knowledge to outside events

Course Outline

Properties of Seawater

  • Important properties of seawater
  • Trends of temperature, salinity, and density at different time and spatial scales 
  • Tools used to measure oceanographic data

Air-Sea Interaction 

  • Variaions in solar radiation on Earth
  • Phyiscal properties of the atmosphere
  • The Coriolis Effect
  • The ocean's influence on global weather phenomena and climate patterns

Ocean Dynamics & Circulation

  •  Deep and surface ocean currents and circulation patterns
  • Causes and impacts of upwelling and downwelling
  • The causes and types of tidal patterns that exist
  • Wave generation, movement and characteristics
Ocean Biogeochemistry
  • Distribution of carbon and oxygen in the ocean
  • Primary productivity and how it varies regionally
  • Photosynthetic marine organisms


*Courses vary by experience and exposure to content. Instructors have the ability to change content and pace to serve the needs of students. Courses have been modified for online teaching.