The study of atmospheric and oceanic sciences includes all aspects of the atmosphere and physical oceanography, their mutual interaction, and their interaction with space and the rest of the earth system. Although a primary goal is to understand the atmosphere and ocean for the purpose of predicting the weather, atmospheric and oceanic sciences embraces much more: motions at large, medium, and small scales; past, present, and future climates; air chemistry and quality; clouds and precipitation; and solar and terrestrial radiation. In many areas, new remote-sensing technology including satellites is used to provide circulation patterns at both global and local scales.

Many undergraduates take an elementary atmospheric and oceanic sciences course to meet part of their natural or physical science breadth requirements. Other students, who have had sufficient mathematics and physics preparation, take higher-level atmospheric and oceanic sciences courses to complement their major work in other fields of natural science. An atmospheric and oceanic sciences major receives a thorough introduction to the basic concepts and tools in the core courses, which cover the physics and dynamics of the atmosphere and ocean. An array of elective courses are offered in the senior year, with tracks in the areas of weather systems, earth/environmental science, and general and applied atmospheric and oceanic sciences. Elective groups are tailored individually. Some students will want preparation for careers in areas such as operational forecasting, environmental consulting, and broadcasting. Others will seek preparation for graduate work leading to a broader range of careers.

Students wishing to declare the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences major should meet with an AOS undergraduate academic advisor. Contact information for advisors can be found on the Advising and Careers page.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science degree requirements.


Mathematics Complete two courses of 3+ credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level in MATH, COMP SCI, or STAT subjects. A maximum of one course in each of COMP SCI and STAT subjects counts toward this requirement.
Foreign Language Complete the third unit of a foreign language.
L&S Breadth Complete:
• 12 credits of Humanities, which must include at least 6 credits of Literature; and
• 12 credits of Social Science; and
• 12 credits of Natural Science, which must include 6 credits of Biological Science and 6 credits of Physical Science.
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework Complete at least 108 credits.
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced Coursework Complete at least 60 credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level.
Major Declare and complete at least one major.
Total Credits Complete at least 120 credits.
UW-Madison Experience Complete both:
• 30 credits in residence, overall, and
• 30 credits in residence after the 86th credit.
Quality of Work • 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
• 2.000 in Intermediate/Advanced level coursework at UW–Madison


Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements. They do not need to complete the L&S Degree Requirements above.

Requirements for the Major

Calculus (complete all):
MATH 221 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 15
MATH 222 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 24
MATH 234 Calculus--Functions of Several Variables4
Physics (complete one course from each group):
PHYSICS 207 General Physics5
or PHYSICS 201 General Physics
or PHYSICS 247 A Modern Introduction to Physics
PHYSICS 208 General Physics5
or PHYSICS 202 General Physics
or PHYSICS 248 A Modern Introduction to Physics
Computer Sciences (complete one):3
Data Science Programming I
Problem Solving Using Computers
Data Science Programming II
Machine Organization and Programming
Introduction to Numerical Methods
Introduction to Combinatorial Optimization
Total Credits26
Core Sequence (complete all):
ATM OCN 310 Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Ocean I3
ATM OCN 311 Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Ocean II3
ATM OCN 330 Physics of the Atmosphere and Ocean I3
ATM OCN 340 Physics of the Atmosphere and Ocean II3
Quantitative Analysis (complete one):3
Introduction to Numerical Methods
Introduction to Combinatorics
Numerical Analysis
Linear Optimization
Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics I
Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics II
Techniques in Ordinary Differential Equations
Linear Algebra and Differential Equations
Applied Mathematical Analysis
Applied Mathematical Analysis
Introductory Probability
Elementary Matrix and Linear Algebra
Linear Algebra
Topics in Multi-Variable Calculus and Linear Algebra
Topics in Multi-Variable Calculus and Differential Equations
Topics in Mathematics Study Abroad
Applied Dynamical Systems, Chaos and Modeling
The Theory of Single Variable Calculus
Introduction to Combinatorial Optimization
Introduction to the Theory of Probability
Introduction to Cryptography
Introduction to Modern Algebra
Applied Linear Algebra
College Geometry I
Introduction to Number Theory
Mathematics for Secondary School Teachers
History of Mathematics
Introduction to Combinatorics
Undergraduate Seminar
Topics in Undergraduate Mathematics
Numerical Linear Algebra
Numerical Analysis
Ordinary Differential Equations
Analysis I
Analysis II
Linear Optimization
Probability Theory
Mathematical Methods in Data Science
Linear Algebra II
Modern Algebra
Modern Algebra
Elementary Topology
Elementary Geometric and Algebraic Topology
Differential Geometry
Modern Number Theory
Fundamentals of Set Theory
Mathematical Logic
Stochastic Methods for Biology
Topics in Mathematics Study Abroad
Mathematical Methods for Systems Biology
Analysis of Partial Differential Equations
Introduction to Manifolds
Complex Analysis
Introduction to Fourier Analysis
Introduction to Measure and Integration
Introduction to Stochastic Processes
Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics I
Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics II
Introduction to Theory and Methods of Mathematical Statistics I
Introduction to Theory and Methods of Mathematical Statistics II
Introductory Applied Statistics for Engineers
Learning a Statistical Language
Applied Regression Analysis
Data Science Modeling II
Introduction to Time Series
Introductory Nonparametric Statistics
Topics in Statistics Study Abroad
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
An Introduction to Sample Survey Theory and Methods
Applied Categorical Data Analysis
Statistical Experimental Design
Introduction to the Theory of Probability
Applied Multivariate Analysis
Financial Statistics
Introduction to Computational Statistics
Introduction to Combinatorics
Special Topics in Statistics
Linear Optimization
Introduction to Biostatistics
Introduction to Clinical Trials I
Statistical Methods for Bioscience I
Statistical Methods for Bioscience II
Statistical Methods for Spatial Data
Statistical Methods I
Statistical Methods II
Data Science Computing Project
Mathematical Statistics I
Introduction to Statistical Inference
Statistical Learning
Professional Skills in Data Science
Data Science Practicum
Introduction to Stochastic Processes
Statistical Methods for Clinical Trials
Statistical Methods for Epidemiology
Special Topics in Statistics
Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
ATM OCN 405 AOS Senior Capstone Seminar1
Topics in Meteorology
Meteorological Measurements
Global Climate Processes
Radar and Satellite Meteorology
Synoptic Laboratory I: The Frontal Cyclone
Synoptic Laboratory II: Mesoscale Meteorology
Tropical Meteorology
Past Climates and Climatic Change
Environmental Biophysics
Atmospheric Dispersion and Air Pollution
Computational Methods in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
Climatological Analysis
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics II
Laboratory in Rotating Fluid Dynamics
Introduction to Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics
Cloud Physics
Atmospheric Chemistry
Radiation in the Atmosphere and Ocean
Synoptic-Dynamic Laboratory
Introduction to Physical Oceanography
Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Thesis
Senior Thesis
Directed Study 2
Directed Study 2
Total Credits27

Residence and Quality of Work

  • 2.000 GPA in all ATM OCN and major courses
  • 2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level credits in the major, taken in Residence. 3 
  • 15 credits in ATM OCN, taken on campus

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Major in consultation with the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences undergraduate advisor.


To earn Honors in the Major in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:



Note that core sequence begins in the fall semester only. 


A maximum 2 credits of Electives may come from Internship or Directed Study courses.


 ATM OCN 300 through ATM OCN 699 are upper-level in the major.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. Recognize and describe the fundamental principles and processes associated with the dynamics and thermodynamics of geophysical fluid flows, the basic physics of clouds, aerosols, and precipitation.
  2. Recognize and describe the fundamental principles and processes associated with radiation and atmospheric and oceanic radiative transfer.
  3. Demonstrate critical thinking skills by identifying a problem, identifying the required information to solve that problem; and formulating and interpreting solutions to that problem using appropriate analytical and/or computational techniques.
  4. Apply diagnostic tools to to analyses and numerical model output to diagnose, describe, and interpret the fundamental dynamical and thermodynamical processes at work in synoptic-scale, mesoscale, and large-scale weather systems and climate circulations.
  5. Apply fundamental radiative transfer theory to interpret remotely-sensed observations of atmospheric and oceanic phenomena.
  6. Design and conduct experiments and/or analyze data to test hypotheses in an area of atmospheric or climate sciences.
  7. Demonstrate effective scientific communication skills through development and delivery of oral presentations (including poster presentations) and written reports and case studies.

Sample Four-Year Plan

This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.

First Year
MATH 221 (QR-B)5MATH 2224
ATM OCN 100 or 1014ATM OCN/​ENVIR ST  171 (Comm B)3
Communication A3Literature Breadth3
Foreign Language4Biological Science Breadth3
 16 13
Second Year
MATH 2344Humanities Breadth3
Biological Science Breadth3COMP SCI 2204
Ethnic Studies4Social Science Breadth3
 16 15
Third Year
ATM OCN 3103ATM OCN 3113
ATM OCN 3303ATM OCN 3403
Literature Breadth3Biological Science Breadth 3
ADV MATH/COMP SCI/STATS3Humanities Breadth 3
Social Science Breadth4Elective3
 16 15
Fourth Year
ATM OCN 400 or higher3ATM OCN numbered 400 or higher3
ATM OCN 400 or higher4ATM OCN numbered 400 level or higher4
Elective4ATM OCN 699 (or elective)3
Social Science Breadth4ATM OCN 4051
 15 14
Total Credits 120

General Advising

Any student interested in the atmospheric and oceanic sciences major should meet with the AOS undergraduate advisor to discuss steps to complete the necessary prerequisite coursework for the major. A Major Declaration Form must be completed by the student and authorized by Professor Stephanie Henderson to complete the major declaration process. Professor Henderson can be reached at 608-265-3583 or sahenderson@wisc.edu. Students should bring a current DARS report to their individual advising appointment.


The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences encourages majors to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after arriving on campus. We partner with SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science. L&S graduates are in high demand by employers and graduate programs. It is important that students are career ready at the time of graduation, and we are committed to your success.

L&S career resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.

Ackerman, Steve
Back, Larissa
Desai, Ankur (Chair)
Hitchman, Matt
Holloway, Tracey
L'Ecuyer, Tristan
Martin, Jonathan
Petty, Grant
Pierce, Brad
Vimont, Dan

Adames-Corraliza, Ángel
Henderson, Stephanie
Maroon, Elizabeth
Oyola, Mayra
Rowe, Angela
Wagner, Till
Zanowski, Hannah