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General Information


Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology

Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

Hawaii Natural Energy Institute

Hawaii Space Grant Consortium

Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory

International Pacific Research Center

Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research

Pacific Biosciences Research Center

Sea Grant College Program

Atmospheric Sciences


Atmospheric Sciences

(formerly Meteorology)

HIG 350
2525 Correa Road
Honolulu, HI 96822

Tel: (808) 956-8775
Fax: (808) 956-2877
Email: metdept@hawaii.edu


*Graduate Faculty

*G. M. Barnes, PhD (Chair)—convection, hurricanes, and boundary layer meteorology
*Y. L. Chen, PhD (Graduate Chair)—mesoscale meteorology, heavy rainfall
*M. M. Bell, PhD (Undergraduate Advisor)—radar meteorology, tropical cyclones, and mesoscale meteorology
*S. Businger, PhD (Undergraduate Advisor)—mesoscale and synoptic meteorology, satellite meteorology, storm structure and dynamics
*J. D. Griswold, PhD (Undergraduate Advisor)—satellite remote sensing of clouds and aerosol, cloud microphysics, aerosols and climate meteorology
*P. S. Chu, PhD—climate variability and natural hazards, tropical cyclones, climate prediction
*F. F. Jin, PhD—atmospheric dynamics, climate dynamics
*T. Li, PhD—climate dynamics and coupled atmosphere-ocean modeling
*D. E. Stevens, PhD—atmospheric dynamics
*B. Wang, PhD—climate dynamics, geophysical fluid dynamics, and tropical meteorology
*Y. Wang, PhD—atmospheric dynamics and physics, climate modeling, tropical meteorology
*J. Zhao, PhD—atmospheric chemistry and aerosols

Degrees Offered: BS (including minor) in atmospheric sciences, MS in atmospheric sciences, PhD in atmospheric sciences

The Academic Program

Atmospheric Sciences (ATMO) is the study of phenomena in the Earth's atmosphere. These phenomena include both weather and climate. Students pursuing the BS receive preparation for professional employment in the atmospheric sciences and are qualified for employment in the federal meteorological agencies. The atmospheric sciences major must be well-grounded in the fundamentals of mathematics, chemistry, and physics. Thus BS graduates are qualified to pursue graduate studies both in atmospheric sciences and other applied sciences, such as oceanography or geography. Graduate degrees prepare students to pursue research careers both with government and in academia.

The atmospheric sciences program at UH Manoa is unique in its focus on tropical meteorology. The tropics exert critical controls on the entire global atmosphere. BS students receive comprehensive training in tropical weather analysis and forecasting. Graduate students often pursue their research in tropical meteorology; some of their study topics take advantage of Hawai'i's unique natural laboratory. Some students pursue graduate research with funding from the National Weather Service, whose Honolulu Weather Forecast Office is housed in the same building as the atmospheric sciences department. Atmospheric sciences faculty cooperate actively with physical oceanography faculty through the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research and the International Pacific Research Center in the study of air-sea interaction and climate variability. Students also have access to both research databases and cooperative employment opportunities at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Pearl Harbor.


UH Manoa is an active member of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.


Inquire about the major by contacting the department office (808) 956-8775. Graduate students are assigned individual faculty advisors by the graduate chair after their preliminary conference.

Undergraduate Study

Bachelor’s Degree


Students must complete 120 credit hours, including:

  • General Education Core (see the “Undergraduate General Education Requirements” section of this Catalog).
  • ATMO 101L and 200
  • MATH 241, 242, 243, and 244 (Students planning careers with federal meteorological agencies should take MATH 405.)
  • PHYS 170/170L and 272/272L
  • 21 credit hours in meteorology courses numbered 300 and above, including ATMO 302, 303, 305, and 402; and ATMO 412 or 416 (Students planning careers with federal meteorological agencies should take at least two courses from 405, 412 and 416.)
  • 15 additional credit hours from physical and mathematical sciences (e.g., engineering, geography, geology and geophysics, information and computer sciences, mathematics, oceanography, physics, and soil science) including (but not limited to) ATMO 310, 405, 406, 412 or 416, 600, 610; CEE 424 and 626; GEOG 300, 303, 402, and 412; GG 455; ICS 211, 311, and 442; MATH 311, 371, 373, 402, 403, and 405; OCN 620; PHYS 274/274L and 400
  • CHEM 161/161L and 162
  • ICS 111 or MET/ATMO 320

For information on a Bachelor Degree Program Sheet, go to www.manoa.hawaii.edu/ovcaa/programsheets/.

Student Learning Outcomes (BS Atmospheric Sciences)

  1. Know the horizontal and vertical variation of temperature, moisture, and wind in the atmosphere.
  2. Recognize the various scales of motion from turbulence to planetary scales.
  3. Evaluate the accuracy and precision of standard meteorological instrumentation.
  4. Apply basic atmospheric thermodynamic principles such as potential temperature, equivalent potential temperature, vapor pressure, mixing ratio, and the first and second laws of thermodynamics to understand weather and climate issues.
  5. Apply basic atmospheric dynamic principles, including equations with partial derivatives such as the equation of motion, various approximations of that equation, conservation of a quantity and key kinematic concepts such as divergence and vorticity to understand weather and climate problems.
  6. Predict the weather by diagnosing observations and interpreting guidance products.
  7. Design and execute basic computer programs to determine desired variables from raw data.
  8. Communicate study results and forecasts in both written and oral forms.



Students must complete 15 credit hours of non-introductory courses, including:
  • MET/ATMO 200, 302, and 303
  • 6 credits of electives from ATMO 305, 310, 405, 406, 412 and 416

Graduate Study

The department offers MS and PhD degrees. Through courses in dynamic, synoptic, and physical meteorology, students develop a strong foundation in tropical meteorology, the department's special field, and are prepared to do research in the atmospheric sciences.

Candidates should have a thorough preparation in physics (with calculus), chemistry, and mathematics through differential equations. Undergraduate courses in physical, dynamic, and synoptic meteorology are expected, but they can be taken in the first year. The application for fall semester is due February 28 for both U.S. and international applicants. The application deadline for spring semester is September 30 for both international applicants and U.S. applicants. In special circumstances, late applications for either semester will be considered.

Master’s Degree

Plan A: Thesis Option Requirements

Graduation with a master's degree requires completion of an acceptable thesis and a successful defense of the thesis in an oral examination.

A total of 30 official course credit hours must also be earned. This will be made up of:

  1. At least 18 credits of regular course work (i.e., excluding MET/ATMO 699, 700 and 765), with a minimum of 12 credits in courses numbered 600 and above.
  2. 1 credit of ATMO 765
  3. 6 credits of ATMO 700 Thesis Research and
  4. 5 more credits either from regular courses or ATMO 699

Directed Research

Our core requirements include ATMO 600, 610, 620 and one term of forecasting (ATMO 412 or 416), unless a student has completed an equivalent synoptic meteorology course elsewhere with at least a B-.

Students must obtain a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the courses counted as our core (ATMO 600, 610, and 620, plus one of ATMO 412 or 416, if that is taken by the student).

As well, students must maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 for the courses they take in the MS program.

Plan B: Non-Thesis Option Requirements

Graduation requirements for a master's degree Plan B emphasize a greater number of graduate level courses, but no thesis.

A total of 30 official MET/ATMO course credit hours must be earned, which will be made up of the following:

  1. At least 18 credits of regular course work (i.e., excluding ATMO 699, 700 and 765), in courses numbered 600 and above.
  2. 1 credit of ATMO 765
  3. 9 additional credits of regular ATMO course work in 400-level undergraduate courses and graduate courses (600- and 700-level). Regarding undergraduate courses, we expect that students without a U.S. major in atmospheric sciences may want to take the advanced dynamics course (ATMO 402) and one or both of the forecasting courses (ATMO 412, 416).
  4. 2 credits of ATMO 699 Directed Research/Reading. These 2 credits with a written term paper, along with ATMO 765, Seminar in Atmospheric Sciences with an oral presentation, are the capstone project for the Plan B program.
  5. Our core requirements include ATMO 600, 610, and 620, and one term of a forecasting lab. Unless a student has completed an equivalent course elsewhere, the forecasting laboratory requirement is met with either ATMO 412 or 416. These core requirements are met by passing with a grade of B- or higher. Other graduate and undergraduate credits may be taken in other fields and applied to the degree program (requirements 1 and 3 above).

There is neither a general exam nor a final exam for Plan B.

Students must obtain a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the courses counted as our core. As well, students must maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 for all the courses applied to the MS program.

MS Plan B candidates must be enrolled during the term in which they complete the requirements for the degree; regular course work or ATMO 500 (Master's Plan B Studies) may be used to meet this requirement. ATMO 500 is offered as a 1-credit course with a mandatory grading of S/NG but does not carry credit toward meeting degree requirements.

Doctoral Degree

The PhD student exhibits a higher level of independence and originality of thought than that required of the MS student.


Students must satisfy several requirements in order to graduate with a PhD degree. Each student is required to pass at least 8 courses with 6 of those numbered 600 and above with a grade of B- or higher. These courses will be in dynamic, synoptic, physical, tropical meteorology, oceanography, or other closely related fields. At the discretion of the graduate chair, a student must be awarded credit for up to 3 relevant graduate courses taken elsewhere, therefore a minimum of 5 courses must be completed at UH Manoa. The courses taken either here or elsewhere need to cover the core requirements ATMO 600, 610, 620 and one of 412 or 416. A student must pass each of these core courses with a grade of at least B-. A student must obtain a minimum 3.0 GPA in the core courses taken at UH Manoa. A student must also maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 for all the courses taken in the PhD program at UH Manoa.

No later than the 24th month in the PhD program, each student must pass a two-part comprehensive examination. The purpose of this exam is to ascertain the student's comprehension of the broad field of atmospheric sciences and so to insure that the student is well prepared for PhD research. The first part of the comprehensive examination is a set of written exercises completed on a single day. Within 3 to 7 days after the written exam, the student sits for the oral portion with his or her committee. No later than 12 months after successful completion of the comprehensive examination, each student is required to submit a written research prospectus for approval to his or her dissertation committee.

A PhD student must also successfully complete two semesters of ATMO 765 during his or her PhD studies (ATMO 765 taken before the student was admitted to the PhD program cannot be counted towards satisfying this requirement).
Finally, the student must complete an acceptable PhD thesis and successfully defend it in a public final oral defense.

ATMO Courses