About the Program
Rapid growth of research in atmospheric sciences began in the late 1940s in response to needs and opportunities in weather forecasting. While fundamental research to advance weather forecasting abilities continues as a core element, atmospheric sciences now address a broad range of problems of fundamental interest and importance. Examples include changes in climate that could result from increases in atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases, causes and impacts of air pollution, interactions between the atmosphere and ecosystems, and the application of remote-sensing techniques to the monitoring and understanding of weather, climate, and atmospheric composition.
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. In later years most 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.
To see examples of the theses and dissertations written by graduate students in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, please see the UW library archives: https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/handle/1773/4893