Doctor of Philosophy in Atmospheric Science (PhD)

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Applicants to master’s and doctoral degrees are not affected by the recently announced cap on study permits. Review more details

Overview

Atmospheric scientists use principles of classical physics to study, explain, and predict atmospheric behavior on scales ranging from turbulent eddies through storm clouds to earth’s global circulation. We are motivated by weather-related big societal issues including climate change, air quality, and renewable energy. Important tools include big data (statistics, machine learning, scientific programming), geographic information systems and remote sensing. Our methods include lab experiments, field experiments, numerical weather prediction, and climate simulation. We support our grad students with government grants for pure research, with industry contracts for tailored meteorological applications, and with teaching assistantships. The UBC atmospheric science (ATSC) program is interdisciplinary, with professors in the departments of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science; Geography; Chemistry; Mathematics; Soil Science; and Mechanical Engineering. Internationally recognized textbooks written by ATSC professors over the past four decades’ span topics from the atmospheric boundary layer and urban climates to practical meteorology.

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.

 

Program Enquiries

Still have questions after reviewing this page thoroughly?
Contact the program

Admission Information & Requirements

1) Check Eligibility

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. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive 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:

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based

Overall score requirement: 100

Reading

22

Writing

22

Speaking

23

Listening

22

IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Overall score requirement: 7.0

Reading

6.5

Writing

6.5

Speaking

7.0

Listening

6.5

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:

The GRE is optional.

Prior degree, course and other requirements

Prior Degree Requirements

Qualified students with Masters degrees in any STEM field are encouraged to apply for the ATSC PhD program. Some Bachelor’s students in any STEM field choose to come to UBC to first work on an ATSC Masters degree — completing it before moving into the PhD program. However, for qualified STEM Bachelors students who know they want to enter the PhD program, the normal method is to enter the Masters program first, and after the first year of mostly course work with high grades and recommendation from their supervisory committee, they transfer into the PhD program without finishing a Masters degree. We encourage grad applicants from a wide variety of scientific, math, statistics, and engineering backgrounds. Applicants to not need a Bachelors or Masters degree in meteorology or atmospheric science. For example, current grad students have university degrees in physics, mathematics, physical geography, engineering, chemistry, computer science, and many other fields.

Course Requirements

Strong physics, math, and computational background is desired.

2) Meet Deadlines

September 2025 Intake

Application Open Date
01 October 2024
Canadian Applicants
Application Deadline: 15 January 2025
Transcript Deadline: 15 January 2025
Referee Deadline: 15 January 2025
International Applicants
Application Deadline: 15 January 2025
Transcript Deadline: 15 January 2025
Referee Deadline: 15 January 2025

January 2026 Intake

Application Open Date
01 April 2025
Canadian Applicants
Application Deadline: 15 June 2025
Transcript Deadline: 15 June 2025
Referee Deadline: 15 June 2025
International Applicants
Application Deadline: 15 June 2025
Transcript Deadline: 15 June 2025
Referee Deadline: 15 June 2025

3) Prepare Application

Transcripts

All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.

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.

Supervision

Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their thesis supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding thesis supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Atmospheric Science (PhD)
Applicants should browse faculty profiles and indicate in their application who they are interested in working with. No commitment from a supervisor prior to applying is necessary, but contacting faculty members is encouraged.

Citizenship Verification

Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.

4) Apply Online

All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.

Research Information

Research Focus

Research areas include weather-related natural disasters (forest fires and smoke, avalanches, floods), air pollution and atmospheric chemistry, micrometeorology (turbulent transport of heat, moisture, momentum and how they relate to forests and crops), cloud and aerosol physics, atmospheric radiation and remote sensing, fluid dynamics, climate dynamics and climate change, glaciology, atmosphere-ocean interactions, urban meteorology, transportation meteorology (roads, shipping, railroads), numerical weather prediction, artificial neural networks, big data, and much more.

Research Facilities

In 2012 a new Earth Sciences Building was completed. The $75 million facility was designed to inspire collaboration and creativity across disciplines. We have extensive lab facilities in the Chemistry, Soil Science, and Geography buildings, and have access to wind tunnels in Engineering. We deploy instruments for field work in forests, cropland, cities, glaciers, and oceans around the world. We have extensive cluster-computing facilities in our own departments, as well as high-performance computing facilities both at UBC and at large computing centers across Canada. We are increasingly using cloud computing for near-infinite processing power and data storage. In addition, software licenses paid by UBC covers powerful desktop data analysis, programming, and visualization apps.

Tuition & Financial Support

Tuition

FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$114.00$168.25
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,838.57$3,230.06
Tuition per year
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
$5,515.71$9,690.18
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$1,116.60 (approx.)
Costs of livingEstimate your costs of living with our interactive tool in order to start developing a financial plan for your graduate studies.
* Regular, full-time tuition. For on-leave, extension, continuing or part time (if applicable) fees see UBC Calendar.
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.

Financial Support

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

PhD students are guaranteed a minimum of salary of CAN$ 25,500.00 (plus tuition) per year for the first four years, which can consist of research assistantships (RAs) to help professors with their grants and contracts, teaching assistantships (TAs) to help teach courses and labs and grade assignments, scholarships and prizes, and combinations of all the above. 

Average Funding
Based on the criteria outlined below, 8 students within this program were included in this study because they received funding through UBC in the form of teaching, research, academic assistantships or internal or external awards averaging $39,159.
  • 6 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 6 students was $5,797.
  • 4 students received Research Assistantships. Average RA funding based on 4 students was $21,207.
  • 4 students received Academic Assistantships. Average AA funding based on 4 students was $2,711.
  • 7 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 7 students was $11,831.
  • 2 students received external awards. Average external award funding based on 2 students was $50,000.

Study Period: Sep 2022 to Aug 2023 - average funding for full-time PhD students enrolled in three terms per academic year in this program across years 1-4, the period covered by UBC's Minimum Funding Guarantee. Averages might mask variability in sources and amounts of funding received by individual students. Beyond year 4, funding packages become even more individualized.
Review methodology
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.

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA)

Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their supervision. The duties constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is considered a form of fellowship for a period of graduate study and is therefore not covered by a collective agreement. Stipends vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union.

Graduate Academic Assistantships (GAA)

Academic Assistantships are employment opportunities to perform work that is relevant to the university or to an individual faculty member, but not to support the student’s graduate research and thesis. Wages are considered regular earnings and when paid monthly, include vacation pay.

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.

International students enrolled as full-time students with a valid study permit can work on campus for unlimited hours and work off-campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

A good starting point to explore student jobs is the UBC Work Learn program or a Co-Op placement.

Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals

Students with taxable income in Canada may be able to claim federal or provincial tax credits.

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.

Cost Estimator

Applicants have access to the cost estimator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.

Career Outcomes

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 Education
University of British Columbia
University of Calgary
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
Sample Employers Outside Higher Education
Norwegian Meteorological Institute
BC Hydro
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
RWDI AIR Inc.
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher Education
Researcher
Manager
Science Deputy Director
Technical Director
Research Scientist
PhD Career Outcome Survey
You may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
Disclaimer
These 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.
Career Options

The PhD program in Atmospheric Science prepares students to be researchers, professors, and leaders in aspects of the atmospheric environment.  Many of the current job openings are for research in climate change and their impacts on society.  Future weather-related jobs will likely increase for issues associated with growing world population and the anticipated shortages in clean energy, clean air, fresh water, food, and living space that is safe from natural disasters. 

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.

ENROLMENT DATA

 20232022202120202019
Applications1371958
Offers20521
New Registrations10321
Total Enrolment14151488
Disclaimer
Admissions data refer to all UBC Vancouver applications, offers, new registrants for each registration year, May to April, e.g. data for 2022 refers to programs starting in 2022 Summer and 2022 Winter session, i.e. May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023. Data on total enrolment reflects enrolment in Winter Session Term 1 and are based on snapshots taken on November 1 of each registration year.

Research Supervisors

Supervision

Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their thesis supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding thesis supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Atmospheric Science (PhD)
Applicants should browse faculty profiles and indicate in their application who they are interested in working with. No commitment from a supervisor prior to applying is necessary, but contacting faculty members is encouraged.
 
Advice and insights from UBC Faculty on reaching out to supervisors

These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a supervisor. They are not program specific.

 

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 (Atmospheric sciences; Oceanography; coastal oceanography; coupled bio-physics and chem-physics and all three models; forecast models; Oceans and Inland Waters; physical oceanography; Prediction and Climatic Modeling)
  • 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 (Atmospheric sciences; Chemical sciences; Atmosphere (Including Chemical Aspects); Physical and analytical chemistry of atmospheric aerosols)
  • Black, Thomas Andrew (Biometeorology; Soil physics; Microclimate modification)
  • Borduas-Dedekind, Nadine (Chemical sciences; atmospheric chemistry; chemical mechanisms; atmospheric ice nucleation; Biogeochemistry; mass spectrometry; Photochemistry; indoor chemistry; atmospheric aerosols; singlet oxygen)
  • Donner, Simon (Atmospheric sciences; Oceanography; Other media and communication; Climate Science; climate change impacts; Climate policy; Coastal Ecosystems; Marine Environment; Climate modelling and prediction; Science communication; Net-zero emissions; Coral reefs)
  • Giang, Amanda (Atmospheric sciences; Mechanical engineering; Natural environment sciences; Atmospheric Pollutants; Chemical Pollutants; Climate Changes and Impacts; Public Policies; Social and Cultural Factors of Environmental Protection)
  • Orsi, Anais (Atmospheric measurement techniques; Physics of snow and ice; Cryosphere processes, n.e.c.; Isotope geochemistry; Geochronology; Environmental geochemistry; Quantitative methods for environmental sciences; Earth system sciences; Climate change impacts and adaptation; climate change; Polar climate; Data analysis, inverse modeling; Paleoclimate)
  • Pawlowicz, Richard (Oceans and Inland Waters; ocean physics; properties of seawater; geophysical fluid dynamics; Nonlinear waves)
  • Radic, Valentina (Atmospheric sciences; Geophysics; Climate Changes and Impacts; Climate Science; Glaciology; Meteorology)
  • Stull, Roland (Meteorology and weather; weather; Meteorology; atmospheric science; numerical weather prediction; clean energy meteorology; storms; transportation weather; forest fire weather; weather disasters; atmospheric boundary layers; aviation meteorology)
  • Waterman, Stephanie (Atmospheric sciences; Oceanography; Arctic oceanography; geophysical fluid dynamics; Jets, eddies & scale interactions; Ocean dynamics; Oceanic processes; Scale interactions; Southern ocean dynamics; Western boundary current jets)
  • White, Rachel (Atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics; Climate modelling; Atmospheric dynamics; climate change; Extreme weather events; Climate impacts)
  • 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)

Doctoral Citations

A doctoral citation summarizes the nature of the independent research, provides a high-level overview of the study, states the significance of the work and says who will benefit from the findings in clear, non-specialized language, so that members of a lay audience will understand it.
Year Citation
2023 Dr. Jeworrek advanced computational and statistical methods to make high-resolution precipitation forecasts more skillful, reliable, and efficient. Her work focused on BC's coastal and mountainous regions and can be used to improve water-resource management and flood risk mitigation.
2022 Dr. Sha developed artificial intelligence methods to make precipitation forecasts in British Columbia more accurate. Dr. Sha also developed a new method to automatically remove poor-quality observational data. Dr. Sha's research improved heavy-rain forecasts, hydropower generation and flood forecasting.
2021 Dr. Moisseeva's work focused on improving our understanding of how wildfire smoke spreads in the atmosphere. She developed a method for estimating how high above the Earth's surface smoke from wildfires will rise. Her findings help improve the accuracy of air quality models and reduce negative smoke impacts for downwind communities.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.

Pages

Further Information

Specialization

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

Faculty Overview

Program Identifier

VGDPHD-CD

Classification

 
 

September 2025 Intake

Application Open Date
01 October 2024
Canadian Applicant Deadline
15 January 2025
International Applicant Deadline
15 January 2025

January 2026 Intake

Application Open Date
01 April 2025
Canadian Applicant Deadline
15 June 2025
International Applicant Deadline
15 June 2025
 
Supervisor Search
 

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