Atmospheric Sciences has been an academic discipline at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa for over 50 years. The department has built an enviable national and international reputation for research and education, offering an undergraduate (B.S.) a Combined Bachelor’s and Master’s (BAM) degree that can be completed in 5 years, and graduate (M.S. and Ph.D.) degree programs. Since 1965 the University has been a member of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.
The department is part of one of the world’s most active schools in the geosciences: the University of Hawai‘i School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). SOEST has about 200 faculty members who study a wide variety of phenomena related to the physics, chemistry and biology of the solid earth, the ocean, and the atmosphere. Atmospheric Sciences faculty and student offices are located in the Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics (HIG) building and the adjacent Pacific Ocean Sciences and Technology (POST) building.
Research has been central to the department’s activities since its inception. Despite the department’s modest size, an impressive array of research projects are being pursued. Projects involving experimental work as well as computer modeling and theoretical calculations are being undertaken by our faculty and students. Our students have thesis topics that involve study of a variety of atmospheric phenomena on a wide range of space and time scales. However, our unique situation as the only world-class university located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has kept our main focus on issues relating to the weather and climate of the tropical Pacific and the Asian-Pacific regions.
Department faculty have participated in field experiments in Hawai‘i, the greater Pacific, and elsewhere. These experiments have generally emphasized investigations of cloud physics, and more recently, of convective and mesoscale phenomena. Many graduate students find thesis topics in the analysis of results of such specialized field campaigns, or in related modeling activities. Learn more on the SOEST webpage, or on individual faculty webpages.
Forecasting and Practical Applications
We are fortunate that the National Weather Service Honolulu Forecast Office is located in the HIG building, providing access to real-time weather data and allowing interactions with the operational forecasters. Several of our students have actually worked part-time at the forecast office. Some of the department’s research activities are directly related to improving short-term weather forecasts for the Hawaiian Islands, including specialized forecasts for the use of astronomers operating the world-renowned observatories on Mauna Kea on the island of Hawai‘i.
Support for practical application of weather and climate information in Hawai‘i is provided by the Hawai‘i State Climate Office, which is directed by Prof. Pao-Shin Chu in our department. We also provide important practical support for the local office of the U.S. Forest Service.
Longer Timescales and Climate Studies
Studies of the basic physics of tropical atmospheric circulations on seasonal and longer timescales, notably the El Niño phenomenon and the Asian monsoon circulations, have a long and distinguished history in the department and in our sister Oceanography department. In 1997, our endeavors in climate studies were significantly enhanced by the advent of the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC), now located in the POST building. The IPRC is a joint Japan-US research center for the study of climate variations and long-term climate change in the Asian-Pacific region. Several Atmospheric Sciences department faculty members also have appointments in the IPRC.
Modeling and data analysis in the department is facilitated by access to powerful computing resources through their own facilities, the University of Hawai‘i High-Performance Computing Facility, or collaborations with other institutions.
With funds from the Unidata Equipment Award Program and a generous cost match from SOEST, the department has recently undertaken an upgrade of its VisionLab instructional computer facility. The workstations in the VisionLab are also used for research.
More information for students
The Weather Server
The Department also maintains a Weather Server page displaying real-time weather observations and forecasts for Hawai‘i, the central Pacific region, and the US Mainland.
History of The Atmospheric Sciences Department
A personal view of the history of the Atmospheric Sciences department (formerly the Department of Meteorology) by Thomas A. Schroeder. This link covers departmental history from 1956-2006 or you may also download a pdf here.