The atmospheric science program showcase in front of Hoagland Hall during Picnic Day 2008

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The Atmospheric Science program, commonly called ATM program by people in the major, is one of the four academic programs of the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources (LAWR). The atmospheric science Bachelor of Science program conforms to the national accreditation standards set by the National Weather Service and the American Meteorological Society, while the Graduate Group in Atmospheric Science offers both the M.S. and Ph.D. degree programs.

Atmospheric science is the study of the layer of air that surrounds the planet. It includes all weather phenomena, such as frontal systems and clouds, as well as severe weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes. Concerns regarding the effects of human activity on the quality of the air we breathe, and on possible global warming are also central to this field of study. For this reason, the atmospheric science program is not just limited to weather forecasting (meteorology) but deals with fundamental physical processes that involve the general circulation of the atmosphere; mass and energy transfers at the planetary surface and within the atmosphere; solar and terrestrial radiation; atmospheric interaction with the biosphere; climate variations; air pollution meteorology; and developments in modern meteorological instrumentation.

In addition to the numerous undergraduate students, the atmospheric science program hosts a large group of graduate students. The faculty have a wide range of backgrounds and interests but four specialty areas can be identified as the primary research programs at present: air quality meteorology; biometeorology and micrometeorology; boundary-layer and mesoscale meteorology; and large-scale and climate dynamics. The diverse and extensive backgrounds of the faculty allow opportunities for interdisciplinary training and research and students can place emphasis on graduate work in one or more fields.

One example of research is the Wind River Canopy Crane Research Facility (WRCCRF) which offers a unique opportunity to investigate the turbulent exchange of Carbon Dioxide and Energy over an Old-Growth Pacific Northwest Rain Forest (500 years old).

Studying weather sounds fun, but there are a lot of serious math and physics classes required to get government certification as a meteorologist. Thus the major requires those classes. ERS is a good option for those who don't want to have to take Atmospheric Dynamics (121A and 121B) and still want to study weather. However, the true "weather nuts" stick out all of the hard classes, because you learn a lot about how complex atmosphere system actually works.

The program is headquartered in Hoagland Hall, though a few people are over in PES or elsewhere. The usual hangout room is Hoagland Hall 151, the department lounge/study space, where a fridge, sofas, white boards, work tables and computers allow students to work, relax and socialize.


It's really a miracle that the weather models work at all, since there's so much unknown about the atmosphere. So please don't get mad at us when we blow a forecast occasionally. - BrentLaabs

The program has had a lot of quirky people over the years. The program used to be the headquarter for the Orwellian as some of its officers were majoring in atmospheric science : MiniHeal, MiniLuv, and the Thought Police Chief. Several "weather nuts" and storm chasers graduated from the program, like an undergrad nicknamed "Skreech" who wrote most of the California Aggie weather forecasts a few years ago. There's also Dr. Dave Pyles a.k.a. Tarzan Guy, a biometerology post-doc.

And if life isn't exciting enough with all of these interesting people, there's always a thunderstorm to chase.


Lower Division

ATM 5 - Global Climate

Discusses our current climate, how it works, and how it is changing. Also covers "short-term climate" (interannual variability) such as El Niño/Southern Oscillation. Usually taught by Prof. Bryan Weare.

ATM 6 - Atmospheric Chemistry

Atmospheric Chemistry is a new class — I think they talk about pollution.

ATM 10 - Severe and Unusual Weather

Severe Weather is the most meteorology-oriented GE class, it covers basic weather patterns and more severe storms. It also skims through some optical phenomena such as rainbows and mirages, but the majority of the class is spent discussing weather events such as tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, and heat waves. The class could be taught by anyone in the department, and varies highly depending on who teaches it. Spring and Fall.

ATM 30 - Topics in Atmospheric Science

This class also depends a whole lot on who teaches it — the topic of the class will be announced at the beginning. Offered every once in a while, depending on stuff.

ATM 60 - Atmospheric Physics and Dynamics

The course has this title because of government requirements for the amount of physics and dynamics. A better title would be "Introduction to Meteorology"; as it covers all of the basics a major student needs in future classes. Not a GE class for some odd reason, but it's a fun class if you actually want to learn something about real meteorology. This class is taught by Prof. Shu-Hua Chen. The class isn't intended for non-scientists, so expect a decent amount of work if you take it. Transfer Students: you need to take this class at the same time as ATM 120. Don't worry, there's a lot of material overlap between the two.

Upper Division

ATM 110 - Weather Observation and Analysis

Weather Observation is probably the class in ATM with the lightest load. Since most students are taking 121B at the same time, this is a good thing. You talk about how to get observations, and where to find them on the internet. There's a good bit of interpretation of the current weather conditions, but forecasting is put off until 111 for the most part. Taught by Prof. Shu-Hua Chen in the Spring.

ATM 111 - Weather Analysis and Prediction

This is the Forecasting Class. This is taken well after you finish 110, since it has the highest prerequisites of any upper-division course. This is where you put it all together and apply your knowledge as a student of the atmosphere. Study ranges from drawing surface plots to using the omega equation. Expect this to be a small class, since many graduate students choose not to take this one. Taught by Prof. Richard Grotjahn.

111L - Weather Analysis and Prediction Laboratory

The lab part of 111. The time where you get your homework partially done during class.

115. Hydroclimatology

Hasn't been taught in a long while.

116. Climate Change

This class is taught annually by Dr. Ruth Reck. It deals with all aspects of climate change: land-use change, the hydrological cycle, effects on biology, paleoclimate, greenhouse gases and aerosols, and effects on weather. It is taught as a seminar, where students read papers every week and are in charge of leading ~20 minute discussions on that paper. It's a challenging course as it different than most undergraduate students, but well worth the time for students in ATM and other fields.

ATM 120 - Atmospheric Thermodynamics and Cloud Physics

The beginning of the gritty details of weather forecasting, Thermodynamics covers most of the physics used in meteorology that is not fluid mechanics. There are basic differential equations which you don't need to worry about if you have any integral calculus at all. Also includes some neat stuff about droplet sizes and the theory and operation of Doppler radar. Taught by Prof. Bryan Weare.

ATM 121A - Atmospheric Dynamics

Did you survive 120? Good. It's going to get tougher now. And I hope you remember your Taylor series. 121A is the basics of fluid dynamics as they occur in a compressible fluid, the atmosphere. The general theory and a few simplifications on the Navier-Stokes equations are covered. Don't worry, Terry Nathan is an excellent guide for these courses. Taught by Prof. Terry Nathan.

ATM 121B. Atmospheric Dynamics

So, after spring break, it pretty much picks up right where you left off in 121A. The equations start to become a lot more useful (or at least you've stared at them long enough they're starting to make some sense). Expect a lot more assumptions so that you can better apply the physics to everyday problems. Plus, you're almost done with the hard stuff. Taught by Prof. Terry Nathan.

ATM 124. Meteorological Instruments and Observations

Instruments is the fun class with large amounts of lab time. It has much more lab than most classes, and students are expected to complete a project, observing the weather. This class also has field trips: all the way across the 113 to our weather station; often there's a trip to the Davis Doppler Radar (WSR-88D). Taught by Prof. Kyaw Tha Paw U.

ATM 128 - Radiation and Satellite Meteorology

Just when you thought you were done with the hard classes, you have to take this. It covers the radiation in the atmosphere, and how it transmits, reflects, refracts, scatters, and diffracts. Math intensive, and has an associated lab (which isn't incredibly important). Taught in Spring Quarter by Prof. Ruth Reck.

ATM 133 - Biometeorology

Biomet is where you get to learn about plants (animals too, but mainly plants) and how they interact with the atmosphere. There's a lot about how energy and water cycle between the biosphere and atmosphere. Not too difficult, but you learn more than you think you do — the professor is very good at explaining the material and answering questions. Taught by Prof. Kyaw Tha Paw U with assistance from Dr. Rick Snyder.

ATM 149 - Air Pollution

Taught by Prof. Tony Wexler from the Engineering department.

ATM 150 - Computer Methods in Physical Sciences

This is a course which teaches the basics of numerical methods in Fortran. Its a lot more based in physical science than similar numerical methods over in EAD (115, 116). Not terribly exciting, unless you like computer programming a lot. Taught by Prof. Richard Grotjahn.

ATM 158 - Boundary-Layer Meteorology

This class talks about the atmospheric boundary layer, also called the planetary boundary layer, which is basically the part of the atmosphere near the surface where friction/viscosity is important. Definitely uses the PDEs a lot. Taught by Prof. Ian Faloona.

ATM 160 - Atmospheric Chemistry

This is an overview of the kinds of chemistry that goes on within the atmosphere, including some pollution topics. Learn about acid rain, the return of the Antarctic ozone layer, and oligomer chemistry within aerosols. The professor is compelling and well-organized, but expects the same level of organization from his students. Taught by Prof. Cort Anastasio.

For an index of the graduate courses and more info, here's the catalog entry for ATM.