Tutorials in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics


Welcome to this set of web pages presenting a series of tutorials covering various topics in geophysical fluid dynamics – an intriguing field that explores various phenomena underpinning our understanding of fluid flows in the atmospheres of the Earth and other planets. The tutorials consist of a series of systematic presentations of various topics, thematically organised into different sections:

Tutorial 0. Dynamical features of fluids in rotation

An outline of the theory behind rotating fluids, introducing ideas including geostrophic balance, the Taylor–Proudman theorem, and Rossby waves.

Tutorial 1. Sloping convection and rotating annulus flows

How fluids flow in an annular (ring-shaped) tank undergoing rotation, with an exploration of the effects of imposing sloping boundaries, internally heating the tank, or having two different fluid layers.

Tutorial 2. Laboratory analogue of the QBO

Introduces the quasi-biennial oscillation: the phenomenon in which stratospheric winds above the Equator alternate periodically between easterly and westerly, augmented by original footage from laboratory experiments, dating from the 1970s, demonstrating the validity of the theory.

Tutorial 3. Circulation regimes in a planetary atmosphere

Explores how numerical models may be used to simulate wind and temperature patterns in a planet’s atmosphere, visualised at different rotation rates – applicable to the study of the atmospheres of other astronomical objects other than the Earth.

Emphasis is given throughout to the inclusion of archive laboratory footage and fascinating visualisations that augment the theory presented – a YouTube channel has been set up as a repository for such video clips, which are certainly worth perusing and of interest even to a general audience.

Citations are provided to research papers underpinning the ideas in each page, which provide a good first step for further reading; we encourage you to explore for yourself the concepts introduced here!

Comments during development are welcome to Jerric Chong.

Further resources

The tutorials above are primarily aimed at individuals with some background knowledge in general fluid dynamics, introducing various ideas to study geophysical phenomena. The resources below, however, provide more information on fluid dynamics, both generally and in a geophysical context, and are good starting points for further exploration into the field.

  • GFD Dennou Club – jointly hosted by Hokkaido, Kyoto and Kyushu Universities in Japan, this website outlines interesting experiments and phenomena in geophysical fluid dynamics, and has a nice collection of software projects and modelling resources. Many pages are available only in Japanese, though.
  • MIT, Weather in a Tank – ‘a laboratory guide that helps students explore how rotating fluid experiments, together with observations of real world phenomena and associated theory, can be used to better understand atmospheric circulation, climate and oceanography’. Contains lots of laboratory experiments and projects similar to those presented in the tutorials on this website.
  • NOAA, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory – run by the U.S. government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this has highlights of recent developments in the field and an exploration of different research themes, as well as models and model data useful for analysing and visualising geophysical data.
  • Nick Hall, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics – a series of lectures in atmospheric and oceanic dynamics, split into bite-size portions and uploaded to YouTube, providing a nice introduction to much of the theory underlying the tutorials on this website. Course notes and further information are available here.

Further suggestions are most welcome!