This is a named option within the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences M.S.

For the M.S. Research named option, students will work with faculty, students, and staff engaged in research across the entire spectrum of topics in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

Synoptic Meteorology

Understanding the synoptic and mesoscale behavior of tropical and extra-tropical cyclones requires a wide range of techniques. We are investigating tropical cyclone initiation and developing an idealized model of the cyclone life cycle. Other projects include work in forecast sensitivity, targeted observations, 4-D assimilation of satellite winds into numerical forecast models, and the nature of the mid-latitude occlusion process and cyclone decay.

Climate and Climate Change

Climate research involves defining the physical, chemical, and biological behavior of many components of the climate, modeling these components in an interactive system, and obtaining appropriate observational information to define the climate and its changes. We have ongoing studies on paleoclimate and recent climate observations and use these in conjunction with comprehensive climate system models to try to understand the characteristics and physics of climate variations on many time scales.

Large Scale Dynamics

Substantive forcing and nonlinear processes are important for large scale dynamics of both the atmosphere and ocean circulations. The challenge remains to define and study the interactions of circulations with many time and spacial scales in order to understand the observed lifecycles of atmospheric and oceanic systems and the dominant variability time and spacial scales. Our studies include atmospheric intraseasonal and interannual variability and oceanic decadal variability.

Radiation and Remote Sensing

Radiation emitted and absorbed by the Earth system drives the large scale circulations of the atmosphere and ocean. We are working to understand the flow of radiant energy through clear and cloudy skies, and to use measurements of radiation to remotely sense properties of the atmosphere and surface.

Cloud and Atmospheric Physics

Clouds are the most visible part of weather phenomena and influence the larger scale environment through the release of latent heat. We study the physical and chemical processes related to the formation and growth of cloud and precipitation particles (cloud and rain drops, graupel, hail, and snow crystals) and the interaction between clouds and their dynamical environments. Other projects center on processes such atmospheric electricity, aerosol physics, and air pollution problems.


The ocean acts as the flywheel of the climate system because of its huge thermal inertia and ability to regulate the atmospheric carbon content. The ocean plays a critical role in short-term climate variability (including phenomena like El Nino) and long-term climate change. Research at the University of Wisconsin focuses on the fundamental physical and geochemical processes that drive ocean circulations, and on the climatic impacts that result.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline January 1
Spring Deadline December 1
Summer Deadline January 1
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required but may be considered if available.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Supplemental form indicating research areas and advisor preferences required.

Overall, our criteria for admissions is holistic and we generally favor high quality applicants who have:

  • Evidence of interest in meteorological, climate, ocean, and.or remote sensing research 
  • Sufficient background in prerequisite courses to be successful in ATM OCN courses and research, regardless of academic major 
  • Interests that match interests of current faculty seeking students
  • Prior experience in research through thesis work, practicum courses, internships, summer research experiences, presentation/publication, etc... 
  • Received nationally competitive or University--wide awards or fellowships (e.g., NSF GFRP) 
  • Evidence of solid written and oral English and scientific communication skills 
  • GPA, GRE, and TOEFL scores reflective of academic strength
  • Ability to enhance the academic, geographic, gender, ethnic, economic, or cultural diversity of our department, especially for underrepresented groups

Applications submitted by the above deadline are given highest consideration for Fall semester admission. Spring semester admission is also possible, but less common. All applicants are assessed and ranked by an admissions committee chaired by the Graduate Program Chair. Admission priority is given to the highest ranked applicants who best meet our application criteria (usually ~25-30% for domestic applicants). International applications are not admitted without a source of funding (assistantship, fellowship, or personal) and advisor directly identified.

An offer of admission for fall, typically made in February or early March, does not guarantee funding. Assistantship and internal fellowship decisions are made jointly by the admissions committee and the faculty or group providing the funding in a separate process, with decisions made typically by March-April. You will be notified if funding for you becomes available. Typically we are able to fund approximately 8-10 students a year, primarily by research assistantship. We do not typically provide teaching assistantships to incoming students. The department discourages self-funding of Ph.D. degrees, but will allow it for M.S. For fall admission, you will have until April 15 to accept or reject any offers of admission or funding.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Named Option Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


Minimum Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 15 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) policy (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
This program follows the Graduate School's policy:
Other Grade Requirements A grade of B or greater is required for the 12 credits of lecture courses in the department numbered 400 or above.

Assessments and Examinations A master's thesis is required, and must be approved by the major professor and two additional faculty members. A public oral presentation of the thesis research is required.
Language Requirements No language requirements.


There is a set of five core courses which are highly recommended as a good foundation for graduate degrees in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. A GPA of 3.0 must be maintained for both options.

The following is a listing of the core courses:

ATM OCN 610 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I3
ATM OCN 611 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics II3
ATM OCN 630 Introduction to Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics3
ATM OCN 640 Radiation in the Atmosphere and Ocean3
ATM OCN 660 Introduction to Physical Oceanography3

In consultation with their advisor, every student seeking a M.S. degree, will design a curriculum that must be approved by their advisor.

  • 12 of the credits must be taken in the department as lecture courses numbered 400 or above.  Seminars, research, independent study or directed reading courses do not satisfy this requirement. A grade of B or greater is required for these 12 credits.
  • An additional 12 (at least) credits may be taken in or out of the department. These credits can include seminars, core courses, and other courses taken as a graduate student. Research credits do not count toward this requirement.
  • Up to 6 research credits in the department can be counted (but are not required) toward the 30 credit requirement.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Named Option-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 14 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's degree or earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 7 credits of graduate coursework taken as an undergraduate at UW-Madison, as long as those credits were not applied toward an undergraduate degree. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


This program follows the Graduate School's Probation policy.


All students are required to conduct a yearly progress report meeting with their advisor, scheduled by December 31 and completed by April 30. Failure to do so may result in a hold being placed on the student's registration.


15 credits

Time limits

The M.S. degree should be completed within three years.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.



Graduate School Resources

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