Climate Science Major

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing this generation. Students trained in the scientific basis for climate change and estimates of climate risk will form part of the solution. The Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences’ Climate Science major will provide students with the scientific understanding they need to assess climate impacts from both human-induced climate change and natural climate variability, as well as finding solutions to manage and mitigate them. It will also provide understanding of the climate system needed to communicate climate information to decision-makers in the public sector, private sector and non-governmental organizations


  1. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  2. Major: Climate Science B.S.
    1. Preparation for the Major
    2. Transfer Students
    3. The Major
  3. Courses

Below are responses to common questions about this new program.

What is Climate Science? When did it come about?

  • The field of Climate Science grew out of the field of weather prediction, which had its heyday in the 1940s through 1960s. During this time, automated collection of atmospheric data, together with the development of numerical techniques to solve the equations of the atmosphere, allowed for the development of computer-based prediction of the weather. The computer simulations used for weather prediction were then adapted for more sophisticated models of the atmosphere and ocean in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • In the late 1970s and early 1980s, atmospheric and oceanic models were coupled to produce the first modern models of the climate system. Around the same time, observations of the climate system were revolutionized through the advent of satellites. For the first time, the scientific community had the ability to model and observe the climate system at a global scale. This era saw the first attempts to simulate the most important dimensions of climate variability, such as the El Niño phenomenon. It also saw the first simulations of the impact of increasing greenhouse gases on the climate system, and growing concern in the scientific community about the human impact on the climate system, or climate change.
  • The 1990s and early 2000s saw the development of climate models to include biogeochemistry and land use change, so that the models might properly be termed earth system models. Supported by improved observational capabilities within the past decade, the resolution of the models has increased dramatically. The higher resolution, combined with the introduction of biological, chemical, and human components into the models, means that it is now possible to examine impacts of climate variability and change on humans and ecosystems at an unprecedented level of detail.
  • The field’s emergence has coincided with an accelerating human impact on the climate system, mainly through a dramatic and ongoing increase in emissions of greenhouse gases. This has created an urgent need for highly trained natural scientists, social scientists, and policy makers to tackle the problem of projecting future climate change and planning for it appropriately.

What does the new Climate Science degree program consist of?

  • The major is composed of science courses plus requirements from related fields:
  1. All the basic math and science requirements expected of all science majors, including calculus, introductory physics, and introductory chemistry. Students will complete the major with quantitative thinking skills comparable to other science majors. Students will also be required to take one course in statistics and one in computer programming. The core and advanced Climate Science courses can only be completed successfully with this background.
  2. Seven core climate science courses. The core climate science courses will teach the fundamentals of climate science, including the phenomenology of the climate system, energy flows within the climate system, the dynamics and thermodynamics of the atmosphere and ocean, biogeochemistry, and the state of knowledge of climate change. Coursework will place heavy emphasis on solving the big data problems common to Climate Science with computer programming techniques so that the students graduate from the program with this highly transferrable skill.
  3. Two upper division courses outside the AOS department. Because climate science is relevant for public policymaking, and because changes in the physical climate system are profoundly influenced by human choices, students will be encouraged to engage in coursework on relevant policy issues. In addition, they will be encouraged to engage in advanced coursework in an area of quantitative reasoning particularly relevant to climate science. Because these courses will be taken toward the end of the students’ time at UCLA, likely during the 4th year of study, this portion of the curriculum is designed so that students can tailor it to their own post-graduation objectives. The AOS department will maintain a list of pre-approved UCLA policy/solutions and quantitative courses relevant to Climate Science from which the students can choose.

What can I do with a Climate Science undergraduate degree?

  • A graduate from the program will have strong science foundations with an exposure to policy and solutions. With its strong quantitative emphasis, the new program is excellent preparation for students wishing to pursue a graduate degree in nearly any scientific field, but especially Climate Science or an allied area. In addition, the students will gain significant computer programming experience, with wide applicability in the information technology sector. Finally, the major is applicable to careers in environmental law, policy, communications, think tank, or non-profit sectors.

What do I need to do to declare as a Climate Science major? How will the department support me?

  • Two courses have been created as entry points for students interested in the major: AOS51, entitled “Fundamentals of Climate Science” and AOS112, entitled “Climate Change Assessment”. AOS51 is taught at the 2nd year level and is designed to give an overview of the field of Climate Science. The course is intended to create a portal for the major and draw science students into the major early in the careers at UCLA. AOS112 provides advanced, project-based grounding in the most recent developments in climate science.
  • Student learning and progress will be supported on an ongoing basis through mentorship of an assigned faculty member and through a faculty committee of advisors. Students will be required to meet with the advisors individually once per year in the fall quarter in a formal meeting structure and will be encouraged to meet with their individual advisors more frequently.

Major: Climate Science B.S.

Preparation for the major (46 – 52 units):

Required: Chemistry and Biochemistry 14A and 14B, or 20A and 20B; Life Sciences 30A and 30B, or Mathematics 3A, 3B, and 3C, or 31A, 31B, 32A and 33B; Physics 1A or 1AH, 1B or 1BH, 1C or 1CH, or 5A, 5B and 5C; AOS 51; M71 (strongly preferred) or Program in Computing 10A; Statistics 10, 12 or 13. Students interested in pursuing graduate studies in climate sciences or other branches of science are encouraged to select the Physics 1 sequence and the Mathematics31A through 33B sequence.

Transfer Students

Transfer applicants to the Climate Sciences major with 90 or more units must complete as many of the following introductory courses as possible prior to admission to UCLA: one year of calculus, one semester of calculus-based physics, one general chemistry course and one introductory statistics course.

Refer to the UCLA Transfer Admission Guide for up-to-date information regarding transfer selection for admission.

The Major (core courses–29 units, electives–8 units)

Required: Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences 101, M105, C110, 112, 121, 123 and 145 two upper-division policy/solutions or quantitative courses from a preapproved list. Students preparing for graduate studies in climate sciences or other areas should discuss specific requirements for their area with the undergraduate advisers.

Climate Science Program Plan   These are recommendations on how to plan out your study list as either a freshman or transfer student. The sample plan only includes major requirements. Each student’s actual study list may differ, and we strongly advise students to work with academic counselors from CAAC and their home department to determine a personal program plan

List of courses

Core Courses (all required, 29 units)

  • AOS 101: Atmospheric Thermodynamics and Dynamics (5)
  • AOS M105: Introduction to Chemical Oceanography (4)
  • AOS C110: Advanced Dynamic and Synoptic Meteorology (4)
  • AOS 112: Climate Change Assessment (4)
  • AOS 121: Climate Mitigation Solutions (4)
  • AOS 123: Climate Adaptation Solutions (4)
  • AOS 145: Atmospheric Physics – Radiation, Clouds, & Aerosols (4)

Upper Division Policy and Solutions Courses[1] 

  • URBN PL M165: Environmentalism: Past, Present, and Future (4)
  • ENVIRON 150:  Environmental Journalism, Science Communications, and New Media (4)
  • ENVIRON 157: Energy, Environment and Development (4)
  • ENVIRON M161: Global Environment and World Politics (4)
  • ENVIRON 166: Leadership in Water Management (4)
  • EPSS 101:  Earth’s Energy: Diminishing Fossil Resources and Prospects for Sustainable Future (4)

Upper Division Quantitative Courses 

  • AOS 103: Physical Oceanography (4)
  • AOS 104: Fundamentals of Air and Water Pollution (4)
  • AOS M106: Applied Climatology: Principles of Climate Impact on Natural Environment (4)
  • AOS 107: Biological Oceanography (4)
  • AOS CM114: Aquatic Geomicrobiology (4)
  • AOS M120: Introduction to Fluid Dynamics (4)
  • AOS 130: California’s Ocean (4)
  • AOS 141: Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry and Air Pollution (4)
  • AOS C144: Atmospheric Boundary Layer (4)
  • AOS 155: Introduction to Ecosystem-Atmosphere Interactions (4)
  • AOS C160: Remote Sensing of Atmosphere and Oceans (4) AOS 180: Numerical Methods in Atmospheric Sciences (4)
  • AOS 192 (1 credit M192A plus at least 3 credits of AOS 192B)
  • AOS 199 (minimum of four credits with a thesis, talk, or poster that has been approved by the supervising faculty member and submitted to the SAO)
  • MATH 134: Linear and Nonlinear Systems of Differential Equations (4)
  • MATH 135: Ordinary Differential Equations (4)
  • MATH 136: Partial Differential Equations (4)
  • STATS 101A: Introduction to Data Analysis and Regression (4)
  • STATS 102A: Introduction to Computational Statistics with R (4)
  • STATS 170: Introduction to Time-Series Analysis;
  • STATS M171: Introduction to Spatial Statistics (Same as Geography M171) (4)
  • STATS C173: Applied Geostatistics (4)

[1] Where there are cross listed courses, they are listed only once, e.g. URBN PL M165 Environmentalism: Past, Present, and Future (same as GEOG M115 and ENVIRON M132).

To learn more about this major, please contact Kathy Yi at ​ To learn how you can support students within this major and the department as a whole, please contact Amber Buggs at (310) 994-5782 or

[1] Any course(s) taken to fulfill major requirements for the Climate Science major during Spring 2020, Summer 2020, and Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Summer 2021, and Fall 2021 could be taken for a letter grade or as Passed/Not Passed. Due to circumstances related to COVID-19, we hope this temporary change in policy allowed each of our students to choose a grade basis that was most suitable to them. This temporary change of policy only applied to Spring 2020, Summer 2020, and Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Summer 2021, and Fall 2021. It will not apply to any previous or future terms.