GLY 397/Physical Oceanography (3 cr.hrs.) - Spring 2009
Instructor: Dr. Chris Cirmo, Geology Department (

Image and Interpretation of the December 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami!

Global Model of Indian Ocean Tsunami 2004    Tectonics of Indian Ocean Tsunami


Course Time and Location:  Bowers 339  T,Th 4:25-5:40

Instructor Contacts: Dr. C.P. Cirmo , Bowers 341, 607-753-2924,

Instructor Office Hours:

·         Monday: 11am-12:45pm

·         Tuesday: 2-4:15pm,5:45-7pm

·         Wednesday: 11:15am-1pm

·         Thursday: 2-4:15pm,5:45-7pm

Email list and web site: The website for the course is found on my home page listed above. Check it frequently for course changes and announcements ( ocean.htm).  Also, I am creating an email list and will email the entire class frequently regarding last-minute reminders or changes. Check your email frequently.

Course Description and Rationale: With oceans of water covering over 70% of the earth’s surface, it behooves all natural scientists and future elementary (childhood education) or secondary (adolescence education) teachers to become familiar with the basic physical, chemical and biological phenomena associated with these vast and relatively unexplored resources. Recent advances in technology have allowed scientists to explore the oceans as never before. Knowledge of the dynamics of the oceans reveals their importance in the control of our planet's climate and atmosphere, its geologic and biological evolution, and possible changes predicted for the future. Exploitation of the oceans by human activities (e.g., overfishing, mining, ocean dumping, oil spills, coral reef bleaching, etc.) has also revealed the fragility of these invaluable resources and reminded us of their importance in regulating the overall global economy.

The goal of this course is to introduce the student to the current state of knowledge in physical oceanography (primarily), and to the literature and resources available to those wishing to study the largest "relatively-unexplored" physical portion of the planet earth.

Textbooks and Other Resources

·         An Introduction to the World's Oceans.  Duxbury, Duxbury and Sverdrup. (2002). 9th edition. McGraw Hill, Publishers (note: all page references are to the 9th edition)

·         Other readings, books, articles and websites as assigned by the instructor.

·         Course Web-Site:  I will post news items, changes in the syllabus, assignments and due dates, etc. on the course web site which is found by going to the web site above and clicking on the hyperlink for Physical Oceanography, GLY 397. You should check this website daily for any changes. 


·         Three (3) Lecture Exams, the last one given during finals week.  (Exam 1 = 20%, Exam 2 = 20%, Exam 3 = 25% of the course grade).

·         Bi-weekly QuizzesThe quizzes will consist of questions from the text, posed by me, or handed out during class, which you have been given as "Assignments" on the course schedule. There will be approximately 7-8  of these quizzes given during the semester. They will take no more than 15-20 minutes each.  (25% of course grade).

·         Assignments: Most assignments will not be collected (unless specified) but questions from those assignments will be used as quiz questions.  These assignment questions should be answered on your own or in cooperation with others in class, and the quiz will be given every two weeks with questions taken exactly from these sets of assignment questions.  Several questions in each problem set will also be solved in class and discussed

·         A 10-minute PP presentation on a topic in Oceanography.  These will be assigned/chosen as teams of two students, within the first two weeks of the course and the presentations will begin on the third week of class. The students is required to create a summary PowerPoint Presentation (see instructions online) as a very short review of that topic as up-to-date as possible. The student will hand out a one-page study guide to their presentation for use by the class.  Information from your presentations may be used in either quizzes or exams.  (10% of the course grade).

For this course, attendance is expected since we will be using each other's comments and feedback.  Lack of attendance will detract from your success and will be reflected in your other grades.  In addition, honesty is expected from all students in the completion of all assignments, exams and projects.  This simply means that all work you submit is essentially your work, although you may collaborate with others on homework assignments.

Student Conduct:

Students are expected to be respectful of each other and of the professor.  Disruptions of the teaching process are specifically prohibited in Section Four.A.7a. Disruption, in the "Code of Student Conduct" found at the following website: use this guide in respectfully requesting that all cell phones are turned off and stored out of sight during our class meetings. Any text messaging is strictly prohibited.  Should a student desire to use a laptop for notetaking, the laptop should be disconnected from the internet. This policy will be enforced by asking the student to leave the classroom the second time there is an infraction. 

Lecture Topics:

 The following topics are a flexible outline of normal topics covered in this course.
    (This is not an exhaustive list)
- History of Oceanography and Ocean Discovery
- Units of Measurement in Oceanography, Scientific Notation and the Language of Science
- Plate Tectonics and the Ocean Basins
- Seawater Chemistry and Physics
- The Atmosphere/Ocean Linkage and Current Ocean Exploration
- Ocean Currents and Tides
- Climate and the Oceans - El Nino, La Nina and ENSO
- Ocean Exploration and Field Trip to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
- Coastal Wave Dynamics, Sea Level Rise and Oceanic Coastal Zone Problems
- River/Ocean Interactions = Estuaries
- Plankton, Nekton and Benthos- Biological Controls on Chemistry and Climate

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

·                     Critically Evaluate a Scientific Topic on Oceanography and Defend Your Views in class

·                     Describe the overall world hydrologic budget and the role of the oceans in that budget

·                     Perform unit conversions, scientific notation, and the know the "language" of science

·                     Understand how the plate tectonic theory defines the current geography of ocean basin

·                     Explain how the chemistry of water is responsible for its physical properties

·                     List the factors which control the salinity conditions in the oceans

·                     Explain why ocean water circulation is controlled by temperature and salinity gradients

·                     Explain how the atmosphere affects ocean circulation and ocean chemistry

·                     List the factors which lead to the production of ocean currents and tides

·                     Discuss the El Nino and ENSO phenomenon in terms of ocean temperature and current

·                     Discuss how waves are formed and how they affect coastal zones

·                     List the types of coastlines and relate this to their history of ocean or terrestrial control

·                     List and describe the types of estuaries and how this reflects their source of freshwater

·                     Discuss the phenomenon of coral reef bleaching and hypotheses as to its cause.

·                     Understand the role the oceans play in “climate change phenomena”

Disability Policy at SUNY Cortland:  If you are a student with a disability and wish to request accommodations, please contact the Office of Student Disability Services located in B-40 Van Hoesen Hall 0r call 607-753-2066 for an appointment.  Information regarding your disability will be treated in a confidential manner.  Because many accommodations require early planning, requests for accommodations should be made as early as possible.