Atmospheric Science


To develop and expand basic understanding of atmospheric processes at all scales, especially those that directly impact California. To apply this understanding to the maintenance of environmental quality, and to the accurate prediction of weather and of changes in global and regional scale climate. To provide the best possible educational experience within this discipline for students at both undergraduate and graduate levels.


The section consists of 10 Senate faculty, 1 CE specialist, and 1 research professor for a total of 4.27 I&R, 4.73 OR, and 1.0 CE FTE. We have one faculty member in a full time campus administrative position. We have one very recent resignation (0.42 I&R and 0.58 OR FTE) and, by 2006, three faculty (1.84 I&R and 1.16 OR FTE) will have reached the age of 65.

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department

  • Measurements and modeling of atmospheric pollutants over California and the western U.S.
  • Studies of the concentrations and physical characteristics of aerosols and their impact on environmental quality
  • Short-term and long-term budgets of heat, moisture and carbon dioxide over agricultural and forested regions
  • Observational and modeling studies of the structure of atmospheric turbulence in the atmospheric surface layer
  • Geophysical fluid dynamics, numerical weather prediction and climate dynamics
  • Theoretical studies of the feedbacks between stratospheric CFCs, ozone, solar radiation and atmospheric circulation
  • Observational and modeling studies of global cloudiness and its interaction with climate
  • Observational and modeling studies of the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere and their impact on regional weather and climate
  • Observational studies of the impacts of global climate change on regional temperature, cloudiness and precipitation trends

Program Impact/Ranking

There is no formal national ranking of programs within the field of atmospheric science but we arguably operate the top-ranked undergraduate program in the western states. One of our faculty (non-salary) is the director of the National Institute for Global Environmental Change (NIGEC), while another is the director of the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory and acting director of the John Muir Institute. The program has been the recipient of Group Achievement Awards from NASA and the USDA Forest Service, and the newest member of our faculty holds an NSF Faculty Career Early Development (CAREER) Award.

Extramural Grants and Gifts

Expenditures administered through the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources for the Atmospheric Science Program during 1997/98 totaled $647,719 (direct costs), and during 1998/99 amounted to $1,129,458 (direct costs). Funding sources included (in order of decreasing contribution) NSF, DOE, State of California, private contracts and gifts, NASA, endowments and USDA.

Teaching Programs of the Department

The section offers programs of study leading to the B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in atmospheric science. Our B.S. program satisfies the federal government employment standards for meteorologists. Graduates of our program are knowledgeable of modern techniques for surface-based and remote observation of the atmosphere, of the dynamics of weather and climate, and of weather forecasting.

Approximately half of the students completing our B.S. program go on to graduate school. This is not expected to change significantly over the next 5 to 10 years. Employment opportunities for B.S. graduates is changing, however, with federal weather service functions becoming more automated. We are experiencing an increased demand for meteorologists in private industry to provide weather information tuned for specific operations and needs.

Our graduate program was 22 students (97-98); 19 students (98-99). Our undergraduate program, including a portion of environmental resource sciences students, was 85 (97-98); 64 (98-99). The SCH hours are: 2441 (97-98) and 2115 (98-99).

Outreach/Extension Roles

Formal programs are mainly devoted to improving the estimation of crop and natural ecosystem water usage, and the development of information on freeze protection of crops, and on air pollution. The California Irrigation Management Information System was originally developed within our group to provide reference evapotranspiration for planning and conservation purposes. Recent emphasis is the estimation of evapotranspiration of crops and landscape plants.

Potential for Collaborative Links to Other Units to Develop Clusters of Excellence

The atmosphere is an essential component of the natural environment, and numerous associations are already established within fields such as integrated pest management and air quality.

Positions Needed to Improve Research, Teaching and Extension Goals

  1. Regional-scale modeler to apply models and predictions of weather and climate on scales appropriate to the state of California
  2. Atmospheric chemistry of aerosols dispersed within the troposphere and stratosphere, and their importance to air quality and impact on global climate
  3. Micrometeorologist/biometeorologist to emphasize exchange processes over natural and agricultural surfaces, essential to considerations of local climates, soil and plant water status
  4. Atmospheric chemistry of radiatively important gases to further establish our new area of expertise in atmospheric chemistry and strengthen efforts in the area of global climate change
  5. A specialist in the physics and chemistry of clouds to better understand regional weather phenomena and to more accurately assess likely changes to global and regional climate
  6. A regional air pollution meteorologist to continue our longstanding strength in the area of air pollution meteorology, and its impact on agriculture and on quality of life
  7. A position in regional and coastal ocean/atmosphere interactions, since one of the most important factors influencing California weather and climate is the proximity of the Pacific


Since we lost a faculty position earlier this year by resignation, and since we predict three retirements between now and 2006, our recruitment priorities in a "no-growth" scenario would involve four positions. These would be positions 1, 2, 3 and 6, and would involve some redirection in enhancing atmospheric chemistry. In a minimal growth scenario (10 percent or 1 FTE), we would add position 5, which, along with position 1, would be an integral component of the campus Initiative on the Environment and its emphasis on integrated watershed science.

Projected Resource Needs and Strategies for Achieving

Our greatest concern in the near future relates to amount and quality of space (we currently occupy only a little more than 50 percent of CPEC guidelines). With other components of LAWR moving into the planned P&ES building, an opportunity exists to create a much more equitable home for the Atmospheric Science Program. There is also a need to keep abreast of modern computational facilities especially in areas of massively parallel computing, both locally and through national links, and modern meteorological instrumentation.