Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences (BS)


Undergraduates in the Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences major will develop an understanding of the fundamental physics and chemistry governing the ocean and atmosphere.  The major engages students in a wide range of topics of scientific interest and increasing social concern including ocean waves, tides, and circulation, natural climate variability including El Niño, human-caused climate change, global warming, ocean acidification, atmospheric storms, oceanic eddies.

Students will acquire the tools to address these topics through basic knowledge of the fluid dynamics and chemical principles relevant to the ocean and atmosphere. Drawing on the expertise at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), the curriculum includes modern approaches to data collection in the ocean and atmosphere, and the analysis of the resulting big data sets.

The oceanic and atmospheric sciences curriculum takes advantage of the unique opportunities at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Classes beyond the introductory level are usually small, permitting personalized instruction, but with access to the resources of a large research university. There are abundant opportunities for undergraduates to work alongside faculty, staff and graduate students on research applications, both observational and theoretical.  The major is interdisciplinary by nature and has close connections to courses and research applications in physics, chemistry, engineering, earth sciences, and environmental systems.

A degree in oceanic and atmospheric sciences is an appropriate start for a broad range of career and graduate school opportunities in various areas, including research, government, state and federal survey jobs, environmental management and consulting, ocean sciences, industrial institutions, elementary or secondary education, environmental policy, or environmental law. Program advisers and faculty can provide additional information on career and graduate school opportunities. 

For information on applying to UC San Diego and SIO Transfer Major Preparation see our How to Apply page. Please note that all academic advising questions (for current students) are handled via the Virtual Advisor.

Lower Division Requirements

Upper Division Requirements

Group A: Core Requirements (all courses are required):

  • SIO 171. Introduction to Physical Oceanography
  • SIO 172. Physics of the Atmosphere
  • SIO 174. Chemistry of the Ocean and Atmosphere

Group B: Upper Division Restricted Electives (choose at least 4 of the following)

  • SIO 111. Introduction to Ocean Waves
  • SIO 117. The Physical Basis of Global Warming
  • SIO 141. Chemical Principles of Marine Systems
  • SIO 143. Ocean Acidification
  • SIO 173. Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Climate
  • SIO 175. Analysis of Oceanic and Atmospheric Data
  • SIO 176. Observational Physical Oceanography
  • SIO 177. Fluid Dynamics
  • SIO 178. Geophysical Fluid Dynamics

Group C: Upper Division Electives: (choose at least 5 of the following)

Students may use additional courses from the restricted electives list (Group B, above) as Group C electives.

  • SIO 101. California Coastal Oceanography
  • SIO 108. Introduction to Paleoclimatology
  • SIO 110. Introduction to GIS and GPS for Scientists
  • SIO 113. Introduction to Computational Earth Sciences
  • SIO 115. Ice and the Climate System
  • SIO 134. Introduction to Biological Oceanography
  • SIO 135. Satellite Remote Sensing
  • SIO 160. Introduction to Tectonics
  • SIO 179. Ocean Instruments and Sensors
  • SIO 199. Independent Study for Undergraduates
  • Chem 127. Physical Chemistry: Thermodynamics
  • Chem 130. Chemical Physics: Quantum Mechanics
  • Chem 131. Chemical Physics: Stat Thermo I
  • Chem 132. Chemical Physics: Stat Thermo II
  • Chem 171. Environmental Chemistry I
  • Chem 173. Atmospheric Chemistry
  • Math 110A. Introduction to Partial Differential Equations
  • Math 110B. Elements of Partial Differential Equations and Integral Equations
  • Math 120A. Elements of Complex Analysis
  • Math 120B. Applied Complex Analysis
  • Math 180A. Introduction to Probability
  • Phys 110A. Mechanics
  • Phys 110B. Mechanics
  • Phys 140A. Statistical and Thermal Physics I
  • Phys 140B. Statistical and Thermal Physics II
  • MAE 101A. Introductory Fluid Mechanics
  • CENG 101A. Introductory Fluid Mechanics