Climate Sciences (CS)

Interested in applying to our MS or PhD programs? View presentations from this year's info sessions.


Information for  the Climate Sciences PhD and Master's degree programs

Climate Sciences concerns the study of the climate system of the earth with emphasis on the physical, dynamical, and chemical interactions of the atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, and the terrestrial and marine biospheres.

Climate Sciences encompasses changes on seasonal to interannual time scales and those induced by human activities, as well as paleoclimatic changes on time scales from centuries to millions of years.

Examples of current research activities include:

  • Interannual climate variability
  • Physics and dynamics of El Niño
  • Studies of present and future changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere in relation to global warming and ozone depletion
  • Effects of cloud and cloud feedbacks in the climate system
  • Paleoclimate reconstructions from ice cores, banded corals, tree-rings, and deep-sea sediment
  • The origin of ice ages
  • Air-sea interactions
  • Climate theory
  • Terrestrial and marine ecosystem response to global change

Requirements for Admission

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the PhD program listed here, students are admissible if they satisfy the requirements of the physical oceanography, geophysics, or marine chemistry and geochemistry curricular programs. Biology and geology majors may also be admissible if the Scripps faculty determine that they have a sufficiently strong background in mathematics and physical science.

Applicant Evaluation Criteria

Factors that used to evaluate applicants include, but are not limited to, (1) Academic preparation; (2) Scholarly potential; (3) Diversity, equity, and inclusion contributions; (4) Alignment with the program (i.e., fit with the research groups of prospective advisors); (5) Realistic self-appraisal; and (6) Long-term goals.

If a CS applicant decides to submit the entirely optional general GRE scores, those scores may be used similarly to the GPA, alongside the applicant’s other materials to inform the holistic assessment of the applicant’s “scholarly potential.”

The support of the prospective main advisor(s) is a requirement for the acceptance of an applicant; the ability of the interested advisor(s) to take on the student is contingent on the availability of funding for projects related to the applicant's stated interest. Typically, the student will work with the interested advisor(s) to select a specific funded project by the spring quarter of the first academic year.

Program of Study for PhD

The emphasis of this curricular group is on education through interdisciplinary research. All students are responsible for the fundamental material in the following core courses: SIOC 210 and SIOC 217A-B-C-D. Students are also expected to supplement their backgrounds with four to seven additional courses, including, for many climate sciences students, one additional quarter of fluid dynamics (SIOC 214A) or one quarter of data analysis. These additional course(s) will be chosen in consultation with the students’ advisers and the guidance committee.

It is recommended that students participate actively in at least two quarters of seminar courses designed to complement and stimulate individual research. The group stresses interactions across disciplines, and courses may be chosen to form a specialization in a particular sub discipline or track, which may include: (1) atmospheric/ocean/climate dynamics; (2) atmospheric chemistry (emphasizing climatic interactions); and (3) paleoclimate studies. Additional course requirements for these tracks will be tailored to the needs of the individual student.

Program of Study for MS

The emphasis of climate sciences is on education through interdisciplinary research. Though the group stresses interactions across disciplines, students will specialize in a particular subdiscipline or track that will be chosen by the student following discussions with their guidance committee soon after arrival. Examples of current tracks include: (1) atmospheric/ocean/climate dynamics and physics; (2) atmospheric chemistry (emphasizing climatic interactions); and (3) paleoclimate studies. Additional course requirements for these tracks will be tailored to the needs of the individual student.

Required course work:

  • SIOC 210. Physical Oceanography (4 units)
  • SIOC 217A, SIOC 217B, and SIOC 217C. Atmospheric and Climate Sciences I-III (4 units each)
  • SIOG 260. Marine Chemistry (4 units)

Elective course work:

Students may fulfill the remaining units of required course work through elective course offerings selected in consultation with the students’ guidance committee. For most climate sciences students this includes at least one additional quarter of fluid dynamics.

Program of Study for MAS

The Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Climate Science and Policy equips professionals with the knowledge they need to improve society's response to climate change. Like the existing Marine Biodiversity and Conservation program, the CSP program is focused on development of local capacity and science-based management tools. The program is designed to teach current and future professionals about climate science from the scientific, economic and policy perspectives, as well as provide important cultural and communications skills. In addition to Scripps courses, students also have the benefit of enjoying interdisciplinary studies by taking course offerings from a variety of top-ranked departments at UC San Diego, including the School of Global Policy and Strategy, the Department of Economics, Communications, Visual Arts, and other departments.

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Research in Climate Sciences

Climate Sciences Faculty and Researchers: