Rapid growth of research in atmospheric sciences began in the late 1940s in response to needs and opportunities in weather forecasting. Extensive research is now underway to extend the time scale over which useful forecasts can be made and to increase the amount of regional and temporal detail in short-range forecasts. In addition, the atmospheric sciences now address a broad range of other problems of fundamental interest and importance. Examples include changes in climate that could result from increases in atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and the application of remote-sensing techniques to the monitoring and understanding of weather and climate.
Graduate students in the atmospheric sciences come from a variety of disciplines: physics, chemistry, engineering, atmospheric, or geophysical sciences, and applied mathematics. Opportunities are broad enough that each of these backgrounds is valuable for specific subfields within the atmospheric sciences. However, students of atmospheric sciences should have in common a sound background in the fundamentals of physics and applied mathematics and an interest in complex natural phenomena. Research projects and graduate courses in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences are closely related, and the well-prepared graduate student may expect to begin research work rather quickly.
For most students, the first year of graduate study is devoted largely to basic courses in atmospheric sciences and mathematical methods. Virtually all students devote at least half-time to research that may include experimental laboratory work, observations in the field, data analysis, numerical simulation, and mathematical analysis.
Research in the atmospheric sciences often extends beyond the strict limits of the subject into other areas of geophysical and environmental sciences. Depending upon their special interests, students may take courses in physics, mathematics, chemistry, oceanography, geophysics, engineering, and other fields.
The Department of Atmospheric Sciences offers programs of graduate study leading to the degrees of Master of Sciences (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). The department also cooperates in offering studies leading to degrees of M.S. and Ph.D. under the interdepartmental Geophysics and Atmospheric Chemistry Programs, participates in the Astrobiology graduate program, the Global and Environmental Chemistry (GEC) Program, and under less formal arrangements with other degree-granting units on campus.
Research assistantships are available for graduate students working towards advanced degrees. Graduate students are required to serve as Teaching Assistants for one or two quarters. The first quarter in which a student serves as a TA usually occurs during their second graduate year. Normally, research assistantships may be held for up to three years for the M.S. Program and six years for the Ph.D. Program.