Atmospheric Science is the study of weather and climate.  Our undergraduate specialization focuses on meteorological fields including air quality, environment, climate change, weather monitoring & instrumentation, and consulting.  The program has deemphasized traditional weather forecasting to reflect changing industry demands.

The highly interdisciplinary Atmospheric Sciences specialization is organized by both the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science and the Department of Geography. Additional professors in our program are from the departments of Chemistry, Math, Soil Science, and Engineering. The 13 professors in the Atmospheric Sciences program conduct research and instruction in the broad fields of atmospheric science, physical & biological oceanography, climatology, glaciology, biometeorology, applied meteorology, and clean-energy engineering. 

Modern pedagogical practices are the standard in the atmospheric sciences specialization. Flipped classrooms, personal-response clickers, just-in-time teaching (JiTT), project-based learning, and two-phase exams are integrated into courses required in the curriculum.  Programming using the Python computer language, student collaboration via GitHub, and Python notebooks for teaching have been integrated into upper-level undergrad courses, all of which are marketable skills.

Undergraduates in the specialization make use of many modern facilities. The Earth Sciences Building includes a weather-instrument platform for research and teaching, modern labs for oceanographic research, wet labs, and 2 PC classrooms. There are extensive hands-on labs and equipment to introduce students to biometeorology, micrometeorology, urban meteorology, weather instruments (including LIDAR), and atmospheric chemistry. Data from second climate station at Totem field is used regularly. The Pacific Museum of the Earth includes a greenscreen that our students use every for mock-TV weather briefings, a “weather lane” of displays including a tornado machine, and an OmniGlobe for display of weather and other geophysical data. Students use Mechanical Engineering’s Aerodynamics Laboratory in the specialization’s instruments course, and the Engineering Design Center enables creative instrument development.  The Atmospheric Science faculty also owns cluster computers for numerical weather and climate simulations.

Atmospheric Sciences professors are particularly proud of our:

  • interdisciplinary courses, faculty, and research
  • attention to students, including a good student/teacher ratio
  • Computational emphasis at all levels
  • Connections with Environment Canada
  • Availability of UBC-produced daily operational numerical weather prediction forecasts for students
  • Personnel and monetary support for course-development
  • Development and design of new meteorological sensors and systems for hands-on experiences

UBC Calendar Description

About the Discipline

Society depends on high quality scientific information about weather, climate, and air quality. Severe weather and marine forecasts, long-term temperature and precipitation assessments, air pollution outlooks, and many other related products and services help us plan everyday activities, make informed business decisions, and design infrastructure. Accurate forecasting of extreme events including winter storms, hurricanes, floods, and urban air pollution are crucial for planning effective responses. Variations and changes in climate, including the effects of El Niño and anthropogenic global warming and Arctic sea-ice loss, are of critical importance to global public health and the economy.

Improvements in forecasting directly relate to the concerns and needs of Canadian citizens and communities, the government, and industry.  Additionally, atmospheric, oceanic, land surface, and sea ice conditions in remote regions have a strong influence on Canada's territory through atmosphere-ocean teleconnections and global atmosphere-ocean circulations. It is in Canada's strategic interest to maintain significant atmospheric science expertise in weather, climate, and air quality issues.

Employment

Bachelor's-degree graduates find employment in air quality meteorology and environmental consulting.  Some are employed as weather forecasters for the government weather service, and increasing numbers are employed by weather-forecast companies that tailor forecasts for agriculture, aviation, transportation, insurance, commerce, and air quality.  Other related careers include jobs as pilots, air-traffic controllers, fire-weather forecasters, weather-software and app developers, and TV meteorologists.  Yet other graduates enter grad school for more advanced education.  

Some of the jobs involve field work to deploy weather instruments or to make fire-weather observations.  Most others are indoor jobs that focus on analysis of data or computer programming.  Some government weather-forecast jobs require shift work; most other jobs are normal workday jobs.

For all of these jobs, skills in meteorology, communication, teamwork, and computer programming are essential. The Atmospheric Science specialization is designed to give graduates strengths in these areas with the opportunity to take electives appropriate to their desired career path. The atmospheric sciences program regularly disseminates employment opportunity postings to its enrolled students.