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Undergraduate Catalog 2016-2017

Atmospheric and Oceanic Science (AOSC)

College of Computer, Mathematical, & Natural Sciences
3417 Computer and Space Sciences Building, 301-405-5391
Chair: J. Carton
Professors: A. Busalacchi, J. Carton, R. Dickerson, E. Kalnay, Z. Li, X. Liang, F. Miralles-Wilhelm, R. Murtugudde, S. Nigam, R. Pinker, R. Salawitch, N. Zeng, D. Zhang
Associate Professors: K. Ide
Assistant Professors: D. Kleist (Asst Prof), D. Lampkin (Asst Prof)
Affiliate Professors: E. Berbery (Res Prof, Aff Res Prof)
Affiliate Associate Professors: M. Tzortziou (Asst Res Sci, Affiliate Asst. Rsch Scientist)
Adjunct Professors: E. Berbery, C. Brown, R. Colwell (Dist Univ Prof Emerita, Affiliate Prof), P. Decola (Visit Asst Res Sci, Adjunct Prof), B. Doddridge, M. Evans, R. Higgins, M. King, D. Kirk-Davidoff, V. Kousky, I. Laszlo (Adjunct Prof), M. McGill (Visit Sr Res Sci), L. Miller (Adjunct Prof), K. Pickering, A. Thompson, L. Uccellini, H. Van Den Dool, F. Weng (Visit Sr Res Sci), R. Zhang
Adjunct Assistant Professors: N. Nidzieko (Asst Prof, Visit Asst Prof)
Professors Emeriti: F. Baer, R. Ellingson, R. Hudson, E. Rasmusson (Sr Res Sci Emeritus), A. Vernekar

The Major

Fundamental concepts from mathematics, chemistry, physics, and computer science are applied to understand the basic principles that control our weather and climate, from extreme events like tornadoes to the millennial changes of ice ages and the results of human modification of our environment. Coursework in the first two years emphasizes mastery of these fundamentals. Coursework in the last two years provides a comprehensive survey of atmospheric and oceanic science, while specialty courses and guided research allow the student to develop expertise in an area of concentration. The Department has particular strengths in computer modeling and remote sensing of the atmosphere and ocean, atmospheric chemistry, and climate studies. In addition to the Department, nearby research laboratories such as the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center offer the student many research opportunities. Courses offered by this department may be found under the following acronyms: AOSC

Program Objectives

The Atmospheric and Oceanic Science B.S. program seeks to educate majors in the basic principles that control our weather and the interactions between atmosphere and ocean that regulate Earth’s climate. Students will be provided with practical experience as researchers and creators of knowledge, and equipped with the requirements for a full range of careers in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, as well as for related areas in secondary education, graduate school, industry, and public service.

Academic Programs and Departmental Facilities

Our department hosts an undergraduate major, three undergraduate minors, a professional masters and a full academic graduate program.  The overlap between the professional masters program and the undergraduate program allows incoming freshman to earn both a bachelors and a masters degree in five years.  We believe that research is an essential part of an undergraduate experience, and require all our majors to complete a senior thesis as part of their education!  

We maintain computer labs for the use of our students in addition to the computer facilities provided by the university, with all major operating systems represented. Several of our research groups also have their own compute clusters, and those who need to access still more powerful computing resources can use NASA, NOAA and NCAR machines.  The department hosts several large disk arrays for local data storage and general-use compute clusters for student use in classes and on small projects.  All are accessible from our laboratories. We are in the process of completing and advance forecasting/data visualization lab for students to prepare forecasts, analyze data, and general classroom use.

We have a state of the art rooftop meteorological laboratory, which currently houses standard meteorological instruments and more than a dozen atmospheric chemistry measurements.  This facility also frequently hosts instruments from nearby research laboratories such as NASA and NOAA.  A short distance away, our department runs an atmospheric chemistry, precipitation and deposition field site at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.

Closely affiliated departments and programs, the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) and the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) are in the MSquare development immediately east of the main campus, and numerous world-class federal facilities are a short walk or drive away.   The new NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction with 700 NOAA researchers is housed next to ESSIC and JGCRI in the MSquare development just east of US Route 1.  NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is five miles down the road, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Naval Research Labs, Environmental Protection Agency, and many more are also located in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.  All have hired our graduates and host frequent collaborations with our faculty and students.

Admission to the Major

The major in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science is not a limited enrollment program (LEP), so there are no formal requirements for entry into the major.  Successful students generally have a solid background, earning good grades in mathematics, physics and chemistry.

Requirements for the Major


Weather and Climate

3 credits


Weather and Climate Laboratory

1 credit


Atmospheric Thermodynamics

3 credits


Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Oceans

3 credits



1 credit


Senior Research Project I

3 credits


Senior Research Project II

3 credits


Computing and Data Analysis: Deciphering Climate Change Clues

3 credits


Upper Level Major Electives

6 credits

Four of the following five classes:


Physical Meteorology of the Atmosphere

3 credits


Climate Dynamics and Earth System Science

3 credits


Remote sensing

3 credits


Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate

3 credits


Synoptic Meteorology

3 credits



General Chemistry for Engineers

3 credits


General Chemistry Laboratory for Engineers

1 credit


Calculus I

4 credits


Calculus II

4 credits


Calculus III

4 credits


Differential Equations

3 credits


General Physics: Mechanics and Particle Dynamics

3 credits


Physics Laboratory Introduction

1 credit


General Physics: Vibration, Waves, Heat, Electricity and Magnetism

3 credits

PHYS 261††

General Physics: Vibrations, Waves, Heat, Electricity and Magnetism (Laboratory)

1 credit


General Physics: Electrodynamics, Light, Relativity and Modern Physics

3 credits


General Physics: Electrodynamics, Light, Relativity and Modern Physics Laboratory

1 credit

*Or another AOSC course at the 200-level
**For a detailed list, see our website for AOSC majors

The sequence for math majors may also be used: MATH340, 341 
††The sequence for physics majors may also be used: PHYS171, PHYS174, PHYS272, PHYS275, PHYS273    

The program requires that a grade of "C-" or better be obtained in all courses required for the major. Beginning with students matriculating in Fall 2012, to be awarded a baccalaureate degree, students must have a minimum C (2.0) cumulative grade point average across all courses used to satisfy major degree requirements.

Detailed information on the major can be obtained by consulting our major website and making an appointment with an AOSC advisor.


Advising for Atmospheric and Oceanic Science majors is mandatory every semester.  Students who need to make an advising appointment should contact the Associate Director of the undergraduate program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science (Tim Canty: tcanty@atmos.umd.edu).

Undergraduate Research Experiences

Many of our present undergraduate students have sought out and obtained productive internships in the Washington, D.C. area. These experiences (whether at NASA, NOAA, EPA, DOE or other federal or state agencies) are important both to our students’ academic careers, as they provide context and generate ideas for independent research projects, and to their professional careers.  In light of this importance, we have made an undergraduate senior thesis mandatory for all AOSC majors (see the courses AOSC493 and AOSC498).  Our majors have the opportunity and are required to perform research!  Non-majors may also participate in undergraduate research through AOSC499 or informally with individual professors and research scientists.

Honors Program

Each year, the AOSC Honors Program Committee reviews the academic records of AOSC majors. Students with a minimum 3.00 overall GPA and a minimum 3.30 major GPA will be added to the AOSC Honors List. For students on the AOSC Honors list certain graduate courses are open. To receive a citation of "with honors in atmospheric and oceanic science" the student must:

  • Have earned a 3.00 or higher overall GPA and a 3.30 or higher GPA for all AOSC major required courses at graduation time
  • Pass two approved AOSC graduate level classes with a grade of “B-“ or better.
  • Pass an Honors Oral Examination in his or her senior year.

To receive a citation of "with high honors in atmospheric and oceanic science" he or she must complete the requirements for honors and receive a high pass for the thesis.

Student Societies and Professional Organizations

The undergraduate program features an active student chapter of the American Meteorological Society.

Scholarships and Financial Assistance

The department maintains awards for highly qualified undergraduate students.  Please contact the department for details.

In addition, the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) administers all types of federal, state and institutional financial assistance programs and, in cooperation with other university offices, participates in the awarding of scholarships to deserving students. For information, visit: www.financialaid.umd.edu .

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