The UNSW Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science (CLIM2001) course explores the basic physical principles and processes that govern our atmosphere and its climate. It will give you the necessary knowledge to understand everyday weather phenomena and what determines our climate. To give you hands-on experience, this course will involve laboratory exercises, including chart analysis and computer simulations.

Throughout the course, you’ll use charts to examine the Earth’s atmosphere to determine the likelihood of storm development, learn why deserts occur at certain latitudes, and how weather systems evolve. You’ll also discover how to use the Bureau of Meteorology's online radar image to track thunderstorms. To analyse charts and data, you’ll be trained in how to apply basic principles of physics and mathematics (including calculus).

Atmospheric Science is grounded in real-world problems. The study of this science can lead to new discoveries on how to reduce the greenhouse gas effect and how to predict and provide early warning on devastating natural phenomena like cyclones.

During the course, you’ll cover a third of the Wallace and Hobbs textbook, which is a useful resource for those who want to take Atmospheric and Climate Science to the next level. You’ll be encouraged to purchase and read through the book to gain a comprehensive view of science.

In the Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science, you’ll learn the following principles:

  • Atmospheric composition
  • Thermodynamics of dry and moist air
  • Stability, cloud processes, atmospheric motion and weather systems
  • Energy transport, radiation laws, solar and terrestrial radiation
  • Ozone formation and loss
  • 1D and 3D climate models and predictions
  • Climate change


Course Breakdown

This course is intended for Stage 2 students pursuing a major in Climate Science, Physics or Applied Maths.

The course covers the following topics:

  1. Introduction: composition and properties of the atmosphere, gas laws, hydrostatic equation, air pollution, ozone formation and loss and the Earth’s orbit
  2. Radiation: radiation laws, Earth’s radiation budget, greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect
  3. Thermodynamics and moisture: first law of thermodynamics, adiabatic processes, thermodynamic charts and atmospheric humidity and its effects
  4. Atmospheric circulation: forces that drive the atmosphere, hypsometric equation, geostrophic wind, thermally driven circulations and the general circulation
  5. Clouds: stability, condensation processes, cloud types and formation, cloud microphysics, precipitation, thunderstorms and weather radar
  6. Climate: simple models of the climate, feedback processes, climate change mechanisms and climate prediction


Career Opportunities

Climate and Environmental Scientists are crucial for assisting farmers, governments, business and communities to plan for changing conditions in the world around them. In this industry, Scientists research many areas from the risks relating to flooding to the impacts of droughts and heatwaves. To help companies prepare for the ever-changing environment, Scientists offer weather predictions, technological solutions, risk mitigation strategies and more.

At UNSW Science, you can further your study in climate change with the Bachelor of Environmental Management.

Relevant Roles

  • Meteorologist
  • Climate Scientist
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Natural Resource Manager

Learn more


What Our Graduates Say

“I had no idea about atmospheric science before this course, and now, I realise that there are many interesting topics in this field. I can’t wait to learn more.”

- Fundamentals of Atmospheric Science graduate.