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Atmospheric Sciences Program

ATSC Program History

The origin of the UGA Atmospheric Sciences program dates to 1996, when Tom Mote prepared a proposal to Wyatt Anderson, Dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, for the creation of an undergraduate program in atmospheric science. The proposal detailed the required curriculum and staffing needs and was loosely modeled on the meteorology program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where Tom received his Ph.D. in 1994. George Brook, Head of the Department of Geography, negotiated a new faculty position in support of that proposal that led to Andy Grundstein’s hire in Fall 1999. David Stooksbury came aboard from Nebraska earlier in 1999 as the state climatologist in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.

David drafted the undergraduate and graduate curriculum proposals in Spring 1999. The proposals were revised during 1999-2000 and received final administrative approval on November 28, 2000. The result was a 21-hour undergraduate certificate, which met the American Meteorological Society (AMS) recommended curriculum, and an 18-hour graduate certificate.

The program started with this small team of faculty. Tom served as the program director, and David served as the graduate coordinator. John Knox came aboard at a critical time in 2001, first as an Instructor in Geography and Engineering and later as an Assistant Professor in Geography in 2008. John played an important role as a faculty member, adviser, and later undergraduate coordinator. Marshall Shepherd joined the faculty in January 2006 and provided important leadership and visibility to the program.

The undergraduate certificate was substantially revised in 2009 in response to changes in the AMS recommended curriculum. At the time these changes came into effect in 2010, the certificate required 31 credit hours, which was substantially more than the 24 hours required for the Geography major.

Marshall became the program director in 2011 when Tom was named Head of Geography. In the next few years, John and Marshall advocated for converting the undergraduate certificate to a B.S. major to acknowledge the breadth of the required curriculum and enhance opportunities for student recruitment. The major proposal was approved unanimously by the Geography faculty in January 2015 and came into effect in Fall 2016, with the first students receiving the B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences in 2017. The program has had several key faculty additions along the way both within Geography – such as Dave Porinchu in 2011, Gabe Kooperman in 2017, Chris Elcik in 2019, and Anna Harper in 2023 – and also within other departments and colleges who are part of our ATSC Faculty. 

As part of the expansion of atmospheric and related sciences at the university, UGA applied for and was granted membership in UCAR, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, in 2012, and its membership was renewed in 2020.  UCAR's membership includes 122 universities that offer research and education programs in Earth system science, including the atmospheric sciences.

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