Graduate Certificate


The science of the climate system combines fluid dynamics, chemistry, radiation physics, geology, biology, and mathematical modeling and analysis skills. Practicing climate scientists and educators are continually needing to learn enough about this range of topics to keep abreast of the leading problems of climate science, such as whether the Amazon may turn into grassland, Greenland might melt, or coral reefs may dissolve in a greenhouse-warmed climate, or what are the critical feedbacks that produce natural glacial-interglacial cycles.

The Graduate Certificate in Climate Science (GCeCS) was created to provide an interdisciplinary training in methods, research issues, and communication of climate science that enhances the scientific breadth and professional employability of GCeCS awardees. The certificate combines the PCC courses, specifically designed to address the cross-linkages in the earth system that disciplinary curricula are not able to do, with a capstone in Climate Science Communication.

Detailed Description of the GCeCS

Admission Requirements

Prerequisites include current enrollment in a UW graduate program.  May be

1) one of the University of Washington graduate programs in Atmospheric Sciences, Earth and Space Sciences or Oceanography
2) a UW graduate program and have at least at least one quarter of chemistry with a total of at least six quarters (four semesters) of college coursework in geophysical science, chemistry, biology or physics, all with an average grade of B (3.0) or above. Courses taken during non-matriculated status may be applied to the GCeCS.

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Students pursuing the GCeCS complete  a minimum of 17 credits, including 3 graded courses, 1 seminar/reading course and a capstone project that includes a communication seminar or course.

Required Coursework (11-12 credits)

Physical Climate

Fundamentals of Climate Change (ATM S/ESS/OCN 587, 3 cr, offered Au)
Advanced Physical Climatology (ATMS 571, 3 cr) (offered alt yrs, requires differential equations and permission of instructor)
NEW OPTION Climate Dynamics offered as OCN 569/ESS 590/ATMS 591 for Winter 2017 (3 cr)

Climate and Biogeochemistry

The Global Carbon Cycle and Climate (ATMS/ESS/OCN 588, 3 cr, generally offered Winter Quarter)

Applications of Climate Science

Choose one of:
  • Paleoclimatology- Data, Modeling and Theory (ATMS/ESS/OCN 589, 3 cr, alt yrs)
  • Paleoclimate Proxies (ATMS/ESS/OCN 554, 3 cr, alt years)
  • Climate Modeling (ATMS/ESS 559 and OCEAN 558, 4 cr, Sp, alt yrs)
  • Governmental Responses to Climate Change (SMEA 521, 3 cr, Au, alt yrs)
  • The Changing Arctic Ocean (OCN 497/508, 3 cr, Sp).
  • Ice and Climate (ATMS 514/ESS 535, 3 cr)
  • Planetary Atmospheres (ATMS 555/ESS 581, 3 cr)
  • Others possible, just ask

Seminar:  Current Research in Climate Change (ATMS/ESS/OCN 586, 2 cr, Au)

Also note that courses taken for the certificate can count as electives to fulfill degree requirements.

Required Capstone Experience

The core courses provide an holistic appreciation of the earth system, and an appreciation of uncertainties. The capstone experience provides training into better ways to communicate new climate science findings to other scientists and professionals, policy-makers and advocates, the public and to students of all levels.

Through the capstone project students should

  • Demonstrate  mastery of multidisciplinary climate science through the creation of material that communicates some aspect of the physical climate system, climate impacts and/or adaptation.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of that communication and reflect on what was learned (you are encouraged to consult with Angela Davis-Unger in UW Office of Educational Assessment,

Communications Training or Seminar

Options Include:
  • Perspectives in Communicating Climate Science Seminar (ATMS/ESS/OCN 593, 1 cr, alt yrs)
  • C ENV 500 ENGAGE: The Science Speaker Series and Seminar-teaches emerging scientists to effectively communicate through development of a seminar on their own research for a general audience. (3 cr; Winter quarter;
  • Trainings offered by the Pacific Science Center

Visit UW Environment science communication courses list, departmental offerings and new, sometimes one-time offerings (subscribe to the pccgrads mailman listserve for opportunities); many can be used to fulfill this requirement.

Climate Science Communication Capstone (ATMS/ESS/OCN 596, 1-5 cr)

Credits and effort can be split over multiple quarters if appropriate.

Your first challenge is to come up with a project that 1) is of strong interest to you 2) communicates some aspect of climate to a non-specialist audience and 3) can be evaluated for effectiveness. You are encouraged to brainstorm ideas with the PCC academic adviser then design the project in collaboration with a UW mentor, generally a faculty member with expertise in the content of the communication, and perhaps also a non-UW mentor working in the field.  The UW mentor is responsible for oversight of the content of the communication.  All proposals and final projects must gain initial approval from the PCC academic adviser and final approvals from all mentors and finally the PCC faculty adviser for the GCeCS.

Capstone project components:  proposal, presentation, evaluation of the presentation, final project write-up and project blog post.

Constructing a blog post-a beginners guide

LuAnne Thompson (PCC Director) is currently the PCC faculty adviser for the GCeCS.  She has served as both the UW mentor and the GCeCS adviser on many projects.

Sometimes projects ideas come from community outreach/speaker requests, other times students have an idea that can be developed into a capstone project. Some general areas: internships with local agencies/journalists, creation and use of K-12 outreach materials; organization of seminars/workshops.

Completed Capstone Projects

Following university requirements, successful completion of the GCeCS will require a cumulative GPA of 3.0 for courses required for the Certificate and a grade of 2.7 or higher for each course counted toward the Certificate.

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