Atmosphere & Atmospheric Sciences

The atmosphere is the mostly gas-filled outermost shell of the Earth system.  Atmospheric scientists investigate the processes that govern weather and climate and the relationships between the atmosphere and human activity.  Atmospheric scientists also work collaboratively with other geoscientists to assess the interactions between the atmosphere and phenomena associated with other disciplines such as hydrology, biology, oceanography, and geology for example.

Meteorologists investigate shorter term atmospheric phenomena such as severe weather, storm systems, and pollution.  Meteorologists also focus on creating more immediate forecasts that serve a variety of stakeholders including the general public, water resource managers, and farmers.  Climatologists investigate longer term changes and trends in atmospheric phenomena such as global warming, El Niño, and the impact of cities on the atmosphere.  Climatologists seek to make forecasts at the seasonal, annual, decadal, or even century scale.  As such, climatologist often must account for both the physical processes that govern the atmosphere as well as the human-induced changes to the atmosphere.

Here at Shippensburg University, the Department of Geography Earth Science maintains an official National Weather Service/ National Climatic Data Center weather station that has collected daily data since 1932.  The department also has collected higher resolution data since 2008.  All Shippensburg University weather information and data can be accessed here.  Data from the weather station, as well as a full suite of instruments that can be deployed on a temporary basis, are used by students regularly for both in-class assignments and independent research projects.

Students interested in atmospheric sciences can take a range of courses within the context of a Geoenvironmental Studies Major.  Students outside of the department may also opt to take courses toward a minor.  Interested students are encouraged to contact a faculty member or their advisor to discuss potential courses and projects.


  Several faculty teach courses and/or carryout research in this topical area.  Faculty include:


Earth Science Courses (ESS)

ESS 111 Introduction to the Atmosphere
Examines and analyzes the interrelated processes and elements of our atmospheric environment, including air-sea interactions, which produce our patterns of weather and climate. Attention given to interaction of the environmental elements and people with emphasis on areas of pollution, atmospheric modification, political and legal aspects, and economic implications of the atmospheric environment. Maps, space and aerial photographs, and instruments are used to enhance understanding and involvement in environmental problems. Lab/lecture.

ESS 355 Meteorology 
Deals with atmosphere and stresses those forces which bring about changes within it. Insolation, temperature, precipitation, humidity, winds, storms, and cloudiness are the chief topics studied. Origin and development of cyclones and their significance in weather forecasting play an important interpretative part of this course. Two hours lecture and two hours lab/week.

ESS 404 Applied Meteorology and Climatology 
Intensive study of interaction between various atmospheric parameters and the natural or human-modified surfaces of the earth centered on the applied nature of the atmosphere including discussion of urban, human, agricultural, architectural, and commercial aspects of society. Computer simulations and mapping are utilized to enhance understanding. Each student carries out a field study on a particular problem of atmospheric interest. Prerequisite: ESS111 or ESS355.


Geography Courses (GEO)

GEO 105 Physical Geography
Studies way the basic natural phenomena of air, water, and ground mutually interact and the way in which these interactions vary from one part of the earth to another to yield different natural environmental regions. Two hours lecture/two hours lab/week.

GEO 203 Climatology 
Deals with regional and applied climatology. Areas of emphasis are climatic controls, classification, U.S. precipitation regimes, world climate types, relationship of climate to other physical phenomena, and importance of climate in selected aspects of human activities.

GEO 450 Geography-Geology Field Studies
One week to 10-day regional field study observing and analyzing the physical and cultural landscape. Emphasis placed upon the physical and historical geology and geography of a prescribed route including several states, regions, or international countries. Prerequisites: ESS212, ESS311, GEO103 or permission of the instructor.

GEO 536 Problems of the Atmospheric Environment 
Examines and analyzes various weather and climate topics, both natural and human-influenced. Topics include brief review of atmospheric basics, air pollution, ozone, ENSO, climate change, climate modeling, and greenhouse warming. Potential solutions to problems explored. Presented in seminar format and includes journal paper discussion and evaluation, writing opinion papers on controversial atmospheric issues, group projects, class presentations, and a term paper. Interrelationships among the various atmospheric problems are emphasized.

Resources and Research Opportunities: