The Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences and the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC) provide the University with the largest program of atmospheric science and meteorology in New York State. The undergraduate program in Atmospheric Science provides a broad background in three fundamental areas of atmospheric science: synoptic (observations and weather forecasting), dynamic (theory and computer modeling), and physical (lightning, acid rain, cloud physics, atmospheric chemistry). Because the department also has a highly active research program in these areas, many opportunities exist for undergraduate involvement in research projects, and for part-time jobs in some research projects. There are excellent computational facilities and support in the Department. Atmospheric Science is a core discipline in Environmental Science, and a our BS degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Faculty-Initiated Interdisciplinary Major in Environmental Science) allows a concentration in Climate, as well as three other options: Biology, Geography and Geology.
Interest in the atmosphere reaches back to antiquity when human survival itself depended directly upon the weather. Even today, we remain subject to the natural variability of the weather while also having to contend with new and frightening problems originating from the effects of modern industrial society. For example, acid rain from sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions is literally killing lakes and forests in America and Europe. Gaps in the stratospheric ozone layer portend significant increases in the ultraviolet irradiation of the Earth with consequent increased skin cancer rates and reduced crop yields worldwide. Increased levels of carbon dioxide from the use of fossil fuels may result in significant global warming and altered climates, not in the distant future, but within the next few decades. Naturally occurring storms, droughts and frosts already disrupt our economy and day-to-day lives all too frequently.
The University at Albany's group of atmospheric scientists was established in the early 1960's by Vincent Schaefer, the protege of Nobel Laureate chemist Dr. Irving Langmuir. Inspired by Langmuir, Schaefer, a world renowned cloud physicist himself, discovered the method of cloud seeding that ushered in the science of weather modification. The current group of scientists covers a broad range of interests in the atmospheric and environmental sciences. Topics of research and study include synoptic-dynamic meteorology, mesometeorology, severe weather, climate, hydrometeorology, theoretical meteorology (spanning planetary through convective scales), solar and wind energy development, solar radiation meteorology, hurricanes and tropical meteorology, energy conservation, atmospheric electricity and lightning, cloud and precipitation physics, atmospheric chemistry, acid precipitation, air pollution, and bioclimatology.