The Department of Oceanography, the only one of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, aims to advance knowledge of all facets of the oceans around Africa and in the Southern Hemisphere. Understanding the impact of our oceans on the atmosphere and ultimately climate change is central to many of the research interests of staff in the department. Emphasis is on the physical environment in the oceans and atmosphere and their interactions. The main focus of the department is on teaching and research in physical oceanography, atmospheric science and climatology in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa. 

The Department has research groupings in sea-going observations, satellite marine remote sensing, marine biogeochemistry, the Southern Ocean, the Agulhas Current system and South West Indian Ocean, the Benguela upwelling system, coastal oceanography, numerical modelling, the science underpinning operational oceanography, marine and coastal meteorology, severe weather, and climate change and variability. It hosts the Nansen-Tutu Centre for Marine Environmental Research, MARiS (Marine and Antarctic Research for Innovation and Sustainability) and a DST/NRF Chair in coupled ocean-atmosphere modelling.