What is Atmospheric Science?


Atmospheric sciences encompass the study of all physical and chemical phenomenon occurring within the Earth's atmosphere or the atmosphere of any other planet. Within this broad field we seek to understand the state of the Earth's atmosphere. Is it changing and if so, how and why? How do the atmosphere and life on Earth affect each other? How do changes in the Sun affect the atmosphere? Atmospheric science addresses these and other questions through observation, analysis of observations, modeling, and theoretical studies.

Why are atmospheric sciences important?

Atmospheric sciences provide us a better understanding of the world in which we live. The atmosphere impacts climate, the air we breathe, and the crops we plant. The atmosphere provides the buoyancy that airplanes need in order to fly. It warms the Earth's surface and protects life from the Sun's harmful rays. Solar research is paramount to our understanding of atmospheric chemistry and dynamics on Earth and other planets. Atmospheric research aids in our understanding of Earth's climate and the ways in which it is changing.

What do Atmospheric Scientists do?

There are many roles an atmospheric scientist may play within this broad field. There are observers, those who build and operate scientific instruments to study the atmosphere. Others analyze those observatons to understand the state of the atmosphere and how it is changing. Still others model the atmosphere by producing computer simulations of its various processes. Theoreticians study the physics governing the atmosphere at a fundamental level. Finally, there are also those who teach and communicate the nature and results of atmospheric sciences to the public.

Graduate education is primarily targeted at training students to become researchers or research assistants in atmospheric sciences. Most would continue on to work in universities or in government or corporate research centers, meteorology, astronomy, or other aerospace sciences. There are also positions in private consulting firms for Masters students with specializations in areas such as air pollution meteorology or satellite remote sensing.

The Atmospheric Science Program, which is jointly sponsored by the Departments of Earth and Ocean Science and Geography at UBC, conducts research in several areas of atmospheric science. Emphasis is placed on studies of processes, and on developing physical understanding of the atmosphere, with particular interest focuses on the atmospheric boundary layer. The program overlaps with studies on physical climatology in the Department of Geography, which is concerned with the study of linkages between meteorological processes and climatic phenomena at all scales.

Research commonly involves field or laboratory measurement and observation; data analysis and interpretation; and numerical model construction, modification and validation. At the graduate level, this requires a background of knowledge (or a willingness and ability to acquire such) in classical physical sciences (especially physics and mathematics) and computer science. A Bachelor of Science degree in geography/environmental science or other relevant fields may also be appropriate. Suitable courses are available for students with strong academic backgrounds. It is important that the student feels at ease with literature in the appropriate field.

At the undergraduate level, the Atmospheric Science Program offers studies leading to a B.Sc. degree, a B.Sc. Honors degree, and a B.Sc. (Co-op) degree. For students interested in physical climatology, the Department of Geography offers an honours undergraduate degree program. Additionally, the Diploma in Meteorology offers an intensive one-year program in theoretical and applied meteorology.

Additionally, the Diploma in Meteorology offers an intensive one-year program to students with a B.Sc. in physics, applied mathematics, engineering or something similar. https://www.eoas.ubc.ca/atsc

Jobs in Atmospheric Science and Meteorology

atscimage2 Federal Jobs: Federal Laboratories, Climate Diagnostics
Academia: National Science Foundation, Cooperative Institutes ...
Private Industry: (Media, Forecasting, Environmental Consulting,Weather Products, etc.)

Job Postings from Individual Companies and Foundations:

atscimage3 AeroMap U.S. Positions in photogrammetry, GIS, remote sensing, cartography etc.
Alberta Energy Company Oil and gas industry positions, including summer jobs for students
American Geophysical Union/EOS has an on-line listing of jobs for AGU members.
American Meteorological Society publishes a monthly listing of jobs.
Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc. (AER) Positions (including postdoctoral) in the atmospheric sciences, physical oceanography etc.
Autodesk, Inc. Jobs in applied mapping and GIS
B.P. Amoco International oil and gas industry positions
D.B. Robinson Group of Companies Oil and gas industry positions - primarily in Alberta and Texas
Ducks Unlimited Jobs and internships in remote sensing and GIS
EA Engineering, Science and Technology Positions in geology, hydrogeology etc.
ESRI CanadaGIS jobs in Canadian regional offices
Husky Oil Oil and gas industry positions - primarily in Alberta
MapInfo Jobs in mapping and GIS
Meteorological Employment Journal post a job list a subscription required to obtain the list.
Michael Baker Corporation Positions in geology, GIS and GPS
M.J. Harden Associates, Inc. Jobs in photogrammetry and GIS
National Weather Association posts a job list.
Pacific Meridian Resources Jobs in remote sensing and GIS
Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies Positions in the petroleum industry
Schlumberger Positions in the petroleum industry
Space Imaging Jobs in remote sensing, cartography, photogrammetry and GIS
Suncor Energy Oil and gas industry positions - primarily in Alberta
Surdex Corporation Positions in GIS, aerial photography, digital mapping etc.
Texaco Oil and gas industry positions
Woolpert Jobs in hydrology, GIS, GPS, cartography and photogrammetry

Career Services

Do you know where your future lies after you graduate from UBC? The question may seem a little premature, but it isn't. The nature of 'employment' and 'careers' is changing rapidly and the successful graduate will be one who learns how to capitalize on the knowledge and skills gained in a degree program in order to secure the type of employment she or he seeks. A little-known branch of UBC's Student Services is called Career Services. Housed in Brock Hall, Career Services staff can help you prepare for a career after you graduate from UBC. They offer workshops on searching for jobs and on the skills needed to get interviews and make them successful. Students also get access to web-based career resources and on-campus visits by potential employers. Unfortunately, many students make their first contact with Career Services in their last term of fourth year and that's much too late. Don't be one of them!


Atmospheric Science
Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
Earth Sciences Building
2020 - 2027 Main Mall
Telephone: 604-822-2449

Advising and Program Approval

Undergraduate students seeking course or program advising should contact the admospheric sciences program advisor.

Students in the Diploma in Meteorology must contact the program adviser to design an individual program.