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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Getting Started in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

For many, interest begins at an early age when observations of weather events become a hobby. They may make and record daily observations of the weather, build their own weather station and instruments, and make amateur weather forecasts. The desire to understand the weather motivates them to become atmospheric scientists.

An increasing number of students take atmospheric and oceanic sciences courses to better understand the Earth system. It is becoming apparent that the net effect of human activities is causing important global changes. The atmosphere is connected to all parts of the earth system and is thus a focal point for understanding such changes. Indeed, atmospheric and oceanic sciences are on the cutting edge of such studies.

Other students may initially have an interest in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, or some other branch of science. They discover, perhaps through a survey course, that the atmospheric sciences offer great challenges that can build on their initial field of study. They may pursue a bachelor’s degree in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, or finish their initial major and continue in graduate school in atmospheric sciences, or they may simply use their knowledge of the atmosphere in their vocation.

Two important traits usually are evident in the career atmospheric scientist: a strong interest in the physical environment and an inquiring mind. Like the other physical sciences, study of the atmosphere demands logical thought and a disciplined mind.