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MAS8810 : Geophysical & Astrophysical Fluids

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Andrew Willmott
  • Lecturer: Professor Anvar Shukurov
  • Owning School: Mathematics, Statistics and Physics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


To present the application of fluid dynamics to the atmospheres and interiors of stars and planets, and to plasmas within and between galaxies.

Module summary:

Fluid dynamics typically becomes more challenging, and therefore more interesting, as the scale of the system under consideration is increased. This module concerns the very largest-scale fluid systems -- those of planets, stars, galaxies and the inter-galactic medium. On such scales the effects of gravity, rotation and magnetism become increasingly important, as does the complexity of fluid behaviour.

In this module we will study the physical processes that operate in geophysical and astrophysical fluids. We will describe how the nature of waves and turbulence is altered in the presence of gravity, rotation and magnetism.

Outline Of Syllabus

Revision of hydrodynamics and magnetohydrodynamics (MHD). Turbulent flows. The vorticity and induction equations. Conservation laws. Compressible flows, hydrostatic equilibrium, buoyancy, self-gravity. Convective and gravitational instabilities.
Rotation: the centrifugal and Coriolis forces, inertial waves, Ekman and Rossby numbers, the Taylor-Proudman theorem, Ekman layers. Conservation of potential vorticity. Kelvin, Poincare and Rossby waves in a rotating homogeneous fluid. Geostrophic adjustment. Barotropic instability. Large-scale wind driven ocean circulation.
Magnetism: magnetic flux freezing, advection, stretching and compression of magnetic fields, the Lorentz force, force-free fields.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture401:0040:00Formal Lectures – Present in Person
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture41:004:00Revision Lectures – Present in Person
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture101:0010:00Problem Classes – Synchronous On-Line
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion301:0030:00Completion of in course assessments
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1161:00116:00Preparation time for lectures, background reading, coursework review
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
PHY8049Geophysical & Astrophysical Fluids
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are used for the delivery of theory and explanation of methods, illustrated with examples, and for giving general feedback on marked work. Problem Classes are used to help develop the students’ abilities at applying the theory to solving problems.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1502A80N/A
Exam Pairings
Module Code Module Title Semester Comment
PHY8049Geophysical & Astrophysical Fluids2N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Prob solv exercises1M10Coursework assignment
Prob solv exercises2M10Coursework assignment
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A substantial formal unseen examination is appropriate for the assessment of the material in this module. The coursework assignments allow the students to develop their problem solving techniques, to practise the methods learnt in the module, to assess their progress and to receive feedback; these assessments have a secondary formative purpose as well as their primary summative purpose.

In the event of on-campus examinations not being possible, an on-line alternative assessment will be used for written examination 1.

Reading Lists