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Chemical Oceanography

Autumn 2006

Oceanography 400 Course Information 

Course Description

Required Text:

Susan M. Libes (1992) An Introduction to Marine Biogeochemistry, John Wiley and Sons.

This book is OK. It is satisfactory in some areas but not very thorough in others. Overall it is probably the best book available. The main reading will be the material I cover in class which is included in a set of detailed notes that are on the OCN421 web site. The sections in Libes that cover (i.e. supplement) the material covered in class are indicated in the syllabus.

Other Reading:

Certain lectures may draw from external readings (e.g. journal articles and chapters from other books) and these will be distributed before class when required.

Lecture notes are available on the OCN421 web site. This site can be reached through the homepage (you're here!). These can be downlodaded and read or printed as you prefer. They are stored in Adobe .pdf format so you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer. This can be downloaded for free from the Adobe web site.

Course Philosophy:

We will emphasize HOW rather than WHAT. Our feeling is that the most important thing you should get from this class are tools you can apply to problems. You can always learn the facts about a specific problem. The tools we will emphasize are 1) chemical equilibrium calculations, 2) simple mass balance box models, 3) the group approach to problem solving and 4) writing short and concise analyses of study questions.

We realize that many students have not had chemistry for some time so we will try our best to bridge that gap. Make sure you ask questions if you hear unfamiliar terms or if you are lost. Come see Thor Arnarson or Jim Murray frequently.

The syllabus is organized into three broad areas of major focus

  1. The Chemistry of Seawater and Chemical Equilibrium
  2. Influence of Biology on Marine Chemistry
  3. Applications of Chemical Tracers

Problem Sets:

There will be six problem sets. These are to be turned in to the TA's mail box before 0930 on Wednesday of the week after they are assigned (see class schedule). Late submissions will not be scored unless cleared with the TA. This class has a strong quantitative orientation and doing well on the problem sets will be necessary for doing well on the exams. Grading will emphasize your understanding of the method as well as the numerical results. The problem sets will count 48% (8% each) of the final grade. Students are encouraged to work together on problem sets.

Group Study:

There will be four, 2-day, group study learning exercises (see class schedule). These will be used to focus discussion on some of the major areas of excitement in the field of chemical oceanography:

  • What controls the composition of seawater?
  • What contols atmospheric CO2?
  • What do we predict to be the fate of fossil fuel CO2?

Each Group Study will have required reading that will be passed out several days in advance. Students will break into groups to discuss specific aspects of the papers. Written analysis will include discussion of specific questions and perhaps some required calculations. These papers and participation in the study groups will count 32% (8% each) of the grade.


The final exam will be 2 hours on May 18 and will count 20% of the grade. The exam will be closed-book, however, you may bring one page (double-sided) of notes/equations.

Office hours & e-mail:

Come see us in the Ocean Science Building anytime you have questions or problems. You will find that both of us will accomodate requests for meetings during non-office hours if necessary. If that is not convenient send questions by e-mail to either of us.


OCN 400: Lecture Schedule (version 9/26/01)

Date Subject (Web Chpt # in Bold) Libes Reading P.S. / G.S.

I. The Chemistry of Seawater and Chemical Equilibria

1 Oct. Introduction (1) ch 1 (pp 3-11)

2 Properties of Seawater (3) ch 2 (pp 12-29) PS#1

3 Salinity/Major Ions (4) ch 3,4 (pp 30-49),Pilson, Chpt.3

4 Chemical Equilibrium (5) Drever Handout

8 Activity Coefficients (6) ch 5 (pp 59-68)

9 Chemical Equilibrium and Speciation (6) ch 5 (pp 68-86) PS#2

10 Chemical Equilibrium - Example problems

11 Chemical Speciation - Example problems

15 Principles of Mass Balance (2)

16 Principles of Mass Balance (2)

17 Why is SW salty? (7) ch 21 (pp 338 - 362) PS#3

18 Group Study #1 "What controls the Composition of Seawater?" Read papers

22 Group Study #1 GS#1

II. Biological Influences on Marine Chemistry

23 Biological Production (8) Ch 8 (129-141)

24 Biological Production (8)

25 Respiration (9) ch 10 (162-166)

29 Biolimiting Elements and distributions (10) ch 9, 10 (pp 142-162)

30 Biolimiting Elements - Trace Metals

31 Group Study "Iron Geochemistry and Read papers

1 Nov. Group Study Limitation of Plankton Growth" GS#2

5 Gases in the atmosphere and seawater

6 Gas Exchange (11) ch 6 (pp 87 - 101) PS#4

7 Acids and Bases (12)

8 Acids and Bases (12)

12 Holiday - Veteran’s Day

13 Carbonate Equilibrium - Carbonic Acid (12) ch 15 (pp 242 -261) PS#5

14 Carbonate Equilibrium - Alkalinity and total CO2 (12)

15 Ocean Carbonate System (13)

19 Particle Flux (14)

20 The Redox Sequence (15) PS#6

21 Diagenesis in Sediments (Suboxic and Anoxic Environments)

22 Thanksgiving

26 Group Study #3 "What Controls Atmospheric CO2 ch 25 (pp447-465; 470-474)

and the Fate of Fossil Fuel CO2" Read papers.

27 Group Study #3 - Continued GS#3

28 Isotope Geochemistry (16) ch 28 ( pp 517 - 556); ch 29 (pp. 557 - 562)

ch 29 (pp 562-566; 569-581; 589 - 591)

29 Stable Isotopes

3 Dec. Radiocarbon and Ocean Age (17)

4 U-Th series isotopes - Scavenging (18)

5 U-Th series isotopes - Gas Exchange

6 Group Study #4 "Atmospheric Record in Ice Cores: Read paper passed out.

7 Group Study #4 Is the Past the Key to the Future" GS#4

10 Review

11 Review

12 Review

18 Final Exam 830-1020.


III. Chemical Tracers   Tell A Friend