Sunset over the ocean
Degrees Offered: Minor BA MS PhD Certificate

The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC) provides interdisciplinary education and training to students who are interested in weather and climate science. The department provides a world­class, interdisciplinary research and educational environment to examine the dynamical, physical and chemical processes that occur in the atmosphere and ocean. A major theme is the establishment of a physical basis for observing, modeling and understanding climate and global change. The department’s 15 core faculty members study the Earth’s weather and climate from the ocean floor to outer­space, attempting to understand climate change and make projections about the atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere and the oceans.

Undergraduate Opportunities

The Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC) Bachelor of Arts degree BA program is the first of its kind for students interested in an in-depth understanding of the physical basis for the role of the atmosphere and oceans in Earth’s climate system. An ATOC degree will prepare students to pursue a wide range of careers in areas as diverse as the energy sector, insurance, military, air and water quality monitoring, weather, and aerospace industries. It will provide a solid foundation for advanced degrees in the atmospheric and oceanic sciences, and for professions in scientific research and academia.

The ATOC minor is primarily designed for students who are interested in developing a knowledge base in atmospheric and oceanic science with an emphasis on the Earth’s climate. However, there is considerable latitude within the program for students to design a course of study that is tailored to their individual interests. Areas of study include basic introductions to weather and climate as well as more advanced courses in atmospheric chemistry and physics, oceanography, weather and climate observations, weather forecasting, ocean and atmosphere circulation, wind energy, mountain meteorology, climate modeling and aviation meteorology. 

ATOC minors delve into a breadth of applied science topics, from the depths of the ocean to the outer reaches of the atmosphere, acquiring the quantitative skills necessary for high­tech careers in renewable energy industries, air and water quality monitoring, sustainable development aerospace industries and weather forecasting. ATOC minors who major in engineering or in natural science fields such as chemistry, physics, applied math or computer science will be well prepared to attend graduate school in atmospheric science or oceanography. The ATOC minor is offered through the College of Arts and Sciences and is noted on a student’s official transcript.

Graduate Studies

Though it was founded only in 2005, ATOC has jumped to top­ten rankings nationally in atmospheric and oceanic sciences. Graduate students, research staff and faculty work together on a wide range of research topics, such as large­scale dynamics of ocean and atmosphere, air­sea interaction, radiative transfer and remote sensing of ocean and atmosphere, sea ice and its role in climate, cloud­-climate interactions, atmospheric chemistry and aerosols, atmospheric technology, extended weather and climate prediction, hydrological processes and boundary­layer measurement and modeling.

ATOC offers a comprehensive graduate program with a core course structure that emphasizes the fluid dynamical, chemical and physical processes in the atmosphere and ocean.

Research Opportunities

The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder is located in a region with the greatest concentration of geophysical researchers in the nation and perhaps the world. The proximity of ATOC to this atmospheric and oceanic science “ground zero” provides students with a host of opportunities that are unique to CU­ Boulder. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have facilities located near the CU Boulder campus. CU­ Boulder hosts excellent research institutes on campus including the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environment (CIRES), the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).