Report on “Fundamentals of Ocean/Atmosphere Data Analysis course”

From May 11 to May 15, 2020, eighteen graduate students participated in the course “Fundamentals of Ocean/Atmosphere Data Analysis” held via Zoom.   Students from four countries took part, with thirteen students from Norway, three from Italy, and one each from Germany and Denmark.   The instructor, Jonathan Lilly, is an oceanographer who specializes in data analysis methodologies.  The course ran four hours each day, with a mixture of lectures, group exercises, and solo lab assignments.

Students were introduced to essential tools for analyzing any type of dataset from oceanography, atmospheric science, or climate.  The centerpiece analysis method, called “distributional data analysis”, is a simple yet powerful method for delving into a potentially large, multivariate dataset by examining its statistics in two-dimensional slices.  Elementary statistics for univariate or bivariate (e.g. velocity) datasets, simple filtering, data organization and manipulation techniques in Matlab, and data visualization strategies were all addressed.  The course also provided innovative training in the mental factors of curiosity, imagination, and objectivity that are essential for researchers.  Students applied techniques to their own datasets, and learned further through homework problems and group exercises.

The final day was an interactive virtual ‘poster session’ where the students presented the results of their work, and benefited from interacting with each other and sharing ideas.  At the end of the course, each student submitted a final project summarizing what they had learned in application to their own dataset.  Despite the limitations due to Zoom, student feedback was highly positive.

Text and photo: Jonathan Lilly