Doctor of Philosophy in Atmospheric Science (PhD)
The Atmospheric Science Programme, jointly sponsored by the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences and the Department of Geography, conducts teaching and research in atmospheric science. It is an interdisciplinary programme, with faculty members coming from not only these two departments, but also from Agricultural Sciences, Chemistry, and Applied Science, with research covering boundary layer and urban meteorology, atmospheric chemistry and air pollution, climate and climate variability, weather and climate prediction, cloud physics, atmosphere-ocean interactions, geophysical fluid dynamics, and interactions between the atmosphere and land (especially vegetation and soil).
What makes the program unique?
The Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at UBC, one of the largest geoscience groups in Canada is composed of over 40 full-time faculty, a staff complement of 30, a total of 40 research associates and postdoctoral fellows.
We engage in fundamental research in atmospheric science, both independently and in co-operation with federal and provincial laboratories and other research groups around the world. The emphasis of the research is on studies of processes and developing physical understanding of the atmosphere. The research commonly involves field or laboratory measurement and observation; data analysis and interpretation; and numerical model construction, modification and validation.
The group is well equipped for research on most characteristics of the atmospheric boundary layer. In addition to conventional meteorological instruments, there are systems for sensing all component fluxes of the radiation and energy budgets, eddy correlation systems for turbulent heat fluxes; two 30 m towers, one fixed and one mobile; mini-sonde, two tethersondes and ozone sondes, and acoustic radar for probing boundary layer structure; and a portable network of ten independently logged anemometers and thermometers. The group is well supplied with analogue and digital data logging systems, micro-computers and facilities for digital image analysis. It also operates its own vehicles.
For computer modelling, there is a "Monster" IBM Linux cluster with 264 processors + 8 itanium processors. There are also two smaller Beowulf clusters, and numerous workstations.
Admission Information & Requirements
In order to apply to this program, the following components may be required.
All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.
Minimum Academic Requirements
The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:
Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitve process.
English Language Test
Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.
Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:
Other Test Scores
Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:
Letters of Reference
A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.
Statement of Interest
Many programs require a statement of interest, sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.
Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.
This program has not specified whether applicants should reach out to faculty members. Please review the program website for additional details.
Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.
In 2012 the new Earth Sciences Building was completed. The $75 million facility was designed to inspire collaboration and creativity across disciplines.
Deadline to submit online application. No changes can be made to the application after submission.Transcript Deadline
Deadline to upload scans of official transcripts through the applicant portal in support of a submitted application. Information for accessing the applicant portal will be provided after submitting an online application for admission.Referee Deadline
Deadline for the referees identified in the application for admission to submit references. See Letters of Reference for more information.
January 2021 Intake
Application Open Date01 April 2020
September 2021 Intake
Application Open Date01 October 2020
Tuition & Financial Support
|Fees||Canadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / Diplomat||International|
|Installments per year||3||3|
|Tuition per installment||$1,698.56||$2,984.09|
|Tuition per year|
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
|Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible)||$3,200.00 (-)|
|Other Fees and Costs|
|Student Fees (yearly)||$944.51 (approx.)|
|Costs of living (yearly)||starting at $16,954.00 (check cost calculator)|
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.
Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.
Program Funding Packages
All full-time students who begin a UBC-Vancouver PhD program in September 2018 or later will be provided with a funding package of at least $18,000 for each of the first four years of their PhD. The funding package may consist of any combination of internal or external awards, teaching-related work, research assistantships, and graduate academic assistantships. Please note that many graduate programs provide funding packages that are substantially greater than $18,000 per year. Please check with your prospective graduate program for specific details of the funding provided to its PhD students.
Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)
All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.
Teaching and Research Assistantships
Student service appointments are intended to help qualified graduate students meet the cost of their studies at the University. Student appointments may involve part-time duties in teaching, research, or other academic activities.
Financial aid (need-based funding)
Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans.
All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.
Foreign government scholarships
Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.
Working while studying
The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.
Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals
Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.
Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.
Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.
12 students graduated between 2005 and 2013: 1 graduate is seeking employment; for 3 we have no data (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016). For the remaining 8 graduates:
Sample Employers in Higher EducationUniversity of British Columbia
University of Calgary
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
Sample Employers Outside Higher EducationNorwegian Meteorological Institute
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
RWDI AIR Inc.
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher EducationResearcher
Science Deputy Director
PhD Career Outcome SurveyYou may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
DisclaimerThese data represent historical employment information and do not guarantee future employment prospects for graduates of this program. They are for informational purposes only. Data were collected through either alumni surveys or internet research.
Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats
These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Atmospheric Science (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.
This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.
Allen, Susan Elizabeth (Oceans and Inland Waters, Prediction and Climatic Modeling, physical oceanography, coastal oceanography, forecast models, coupled bio-physics and chem-physics and all three models)
Austin, Philip (global climate; climate change; greenhouse effect; global warming; clouds; lightning; storms, Cloud physics, radiative properties of layer clouds, status cirrus formation, global climate, cloug aerosol feedbacks and climate)
Balmforth, Neil (Fluid mechanics, nonlinear dynamics and applied partial differential equations)
Bertram, Allan (Atmosphere (Including Chemical Aspects), Physical and analytical chemistry of atmospheric aerosols)
Black, Thomas Andrew (Biometeorology, Soil physics, Microclimate modification)
Donner, Simon (Climate Changes and Impacts, Prediction and Climatic Modeling, Marine Environment, Climate change science, Climate policy, Science communication, Coastal Ecosystems)
Giang, Amanda (Atmospheric Pollutants, Climate Changes and Impacts, Chemical Pollutants, Social and Cultural Factors of Environmental Protection, Public Policies)
Knox, Sara (Ecological and Ecophysiological Processes, Ecosystem (Aquatic and Terrestrial), Climate Changes and Impacts, Atmosphere (Including Chemical Aspects), Micrometeorology, Biogeochemistry, Hydrology, Ecology, climate change)
McKendry, Ian (Air pollution Climatology)
Pawlowicz, Richard (Oceans and Inland Waters, ocean physics, properties of seawater, geophysical fluid dynamics, Nonlinear waves)
Radic, Valentina (Climate Changes and Impacts, Glaciology, Meteorology, Climate Science)
Stull, Roland (weather forecasting, meteorology, atmospheric sciences, green energy, wind power, hydro power, weather disasters, natural disasters, storms, forest-fire weather, avalanche weather, wind storms, numerical weather prediction, BC weather, Numerical weather prediction, geophysical disasters)
Zimmerman, Naomi (development and application of real-world-based tools to quickly and quantitatively assess the impact of our policy and technology decisions on air pollution and climate outcomes, and to use the knowledge gained to support better environmental policy planning; air quality)
|2019||The ongoing loss of mountain glaciers influences sea level rise and the supply of freshwater to communities and ecosystems. Through observations in the mountains of British Columbia, Dr. Fitzpatrick examined the atmospheric conditions affecting melt rates, and developed methods to better understand the response of glaciers in a changing climate.|
|2019||Dr. Ivo Odon completed his research in the field of Atmospheric Sciences. He investigated the behaviour of extreme weather events across BC, and the impacts of climate change on such events. The results of his dissertation are being used by BC Hydro so they can better prepare for peaks in electricity demand and power outages.|
|2017||Dr. Siuta improved wind forecasts in complex terrain through selective model configuration. His work will allow energy planners to trust wind power forecasts, allow for better integration of wind energy into electric grids, and save consumers money. He also improved the representation of wind profiles on mountain tops.|
|2016||Dr. Lima studied the application of machine learning algorithms in environmental sciences. He used artificial neural networks to forecast streamflow, precipitation, and surface air temperature. His research advances the use of model output statistics and extends predictions to variables not computed by the current numerical weather prediction model.|
|2016||Dr. Cottle developed a novel algorithm for using single-wavelength, dual polarization, LIDAR to identify aerosol and cloud types. He then employed this algorithm to study multiple instances of medium and long range aerosol transport events.|
|2014||Dr. Wong created a computational method to increase the accuracy and efficiency of weather forecast models. Her method ensures that amounts of key atmospheric chemicals are properly conserved when carried by complicated wind patterns. This is especially important for air pollution and global climate prediction.|
|2014||Dr. Emmel examined the turbulent exchange of CO2, water and energy in a forest killed by mountain pine beetles. She found that immature living vegetation took up more CO2 than was released by the mainly dead forest. She showed that forest management to retain the living vegetation could be an appropriate response from a carbon perspective.|
|2014||Dr. Gaitan-Ospina's work in climatology used different techniques to statistically refine future projections of temperature, precipitation and wind speed in the Canadian Global Climate Model. The results show that nonlinear methods are preferred over linear ones. These findings benefit engineers, biologists, land and forest managers and policy-makers.|
|2013||Dr. Bourdin studied the way in which water flow into hydroelectric reservoirs is predicted by different forecast models. She showed that better flow forecasts are obtained through model combination. The economic risk in hydroelectric resource management can be reduced by combining many diverse models, which translates into more affordable electricity.|
|2013||Dr. Howard developed the first snowpack model for groomed ski runs, to forecast snow conditions for alpine ski racing. Her model captured the effects of snow crushing by skiers and snowcats, and included heat radiated from trees. She successfully simulated snow conditions for the 2010 Winter Olympics at Whistler.|
Sample Thesis Submissions
Further Program Information
Atmospheric Science at UBC offers these areas of graduate research:
- boundary layers and micrometeorology, including turbulence, urban meteorology, and mountain meteorology
- numerical weather prediction for transportation, weather disasters, and clean energy (hydro, wind, solar)
- air pollution, pollutant transport and dispersion, and atmospheric chemistry
- climate, including climatology, climate variability and prediction, earth system modelling, climate change, glaciers
- satellite remote sensing, cloud microphysics, aerosols
- ocean-atmosphere interactions, ocean dynamics
- biometeorology, including agricultural and forest meteorology, trace gas exchange, carbon cycling, vegetation water use
- geophysical fluid dynamics
- machine-learning tools including artificial neural networks, gene-expression programming