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Atmospheric Physics Concentration


In its simplest form, atmospheric physics is the application of physics to the study of the atmosphere. Atmospheric physicists attempt to model Earth's atmosphere and the atmospheres of the other planets using fluid flow equations, chemical models, radiation budget, and energy transfer processes in the atmosphere (as well as how these tie into other systems such as the oceans). In order to model weather systems, atmospheric physicists employ elements of scattering theory, wave propagation models, cloud physics, statistical mechanics and spatial statistics which are highly mathematical and related to physics. As a consequence, atmospheric physics has close links to meteorology and climatology and also covers the design and construction of instruments for studying the atmosphere and the interpretation of the data they provide, including remote sensing instruments.

The College of Charleston is one of the few institutions which offers an undergraduate program in atmospheric physics. With the growing demand to understand the science of climate change along with the interdisciplinary nature of modern atmospheric science research, there is growing demand for programs which integrate atmospheric science and traditional physics. The Atmospheric Physics Concentration is designed for students who desire to pursue graduate study in atmospheric science and/or atmospheric physics. Moreover, this concentration is designed for students who desire to pursue more research-oriented careers in the atmospheric sciences in research institutions like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

On this page, the full curriculum for the Atmospheric Physics Concentration is given below.


The Atmospheric Physics Concentration within the Physics BS degree consists of a minimum of 58 credit hours meteorology, physics, and math courses. This full course curriculum (which satisfies the requirements of the Physics BS degree and the Atmospheric Physics Concentration) is given below.
Introductory Physics Courses
Complete one of the following options:

Option 1:
  • PHYS 111/111L (General Physics I) (4 cr.)
  • PHYS 112/112L (General Physics II) (4 cr.)
  • PHYS 230 (Introduction to Modern Physics) (3 cr.)

Option 2:
  • HONS 157/157L (Honors Physics I) (4 cr.)
  • HONS 158/158L (Honors Physics II) (4 cr.)
  • PHYS 230 (Introduction to Modern Physics) (3 cr.)

Core Mathematics Courses
Complete the following courses:
  • MATH 120 (Introductory Calculus) (4 cr.)
  • MATH 220 (Calculus II) (4 cr.)
  • MATH 221 (Calculus III) (4 cr.)
  • MATH 323 (Differential Equations) (3 cr.) OR MATH 272 (Methods of Applied Physics) (3 cr.)

Physics Core
Complete the following courses:
  • PHYS 301 (Classical Mechanics) (3 cr.)
  • PHYS 370 (Experimental Physics) (4 cr.)
  • PHYS 403 (Quantum Mechanics I) (3 cr.)
  • PHYS 405 (Thermal Physics) (3 cr.)
  • PHYS 409 (Electromagnetism I) (3 cr.)
  • PHYS 415 (Fluid Mechanics) (3 cr.)
  • PHYS 459 (Cloud and Precipitation Physics) (3 cr.)

Capstone Experience
Complete one of the following courses involving a topic in meteorology with the approval of the meteorology program director and the department
  • PHYS 420 (Senior Research) (3 cr.)
  • PHYS 499 (Bachelor's Essay) (6 cr.)

Specialized Elective Courses
Complete 9 additional credit hours from the following:
  • ASTR 306 (Planetary Astronomy) (3 cr.)
  • ENVT 352* (Special Topics in Environmental Science and Studies) (1-4 cr.)
  • GEOL 442 (Geological Application of Remote Sensing) (4 cr.)
  • GEOL 449 (Geographical Information Systems) (4 cr.)
  • HONS 390* (Special Topics) (3-6 cr.)
  • PHYS 210 (Introduction to Air Pollution (3 cr.)
  • PHYS 215 (Synoptic Meteorology) (3 cr.)
  • PHYS 225 (Climate) (3 cr.)
  • PHYS 298* (Special Topics) (1-3 cr.)
  • PHYS 320/320L (Intro to Electronics) (4 cr.)
  • PHYS 340/340L (Photonics) (4 cr.)
  • PHYS 350 (Energy Production) (4 cr.)
  • PHYS 381* (Internship) (1-4 cr.)
  • PHYS 390* (Research) (1-3 cr.)
  • PHYS 394/394L (Digital Signal and Image Processing with Biomedical Applications) (4 cr.)
  • PHYS 399* (Tutorial) (3 cr.)
  • PHYS 410 (Electromagnetism II) (3 cr.)
  • PHYS 412* (Special Topics) (1-3 cr.)
  • PHYS 425 (Mesoscale Meteorology) (3 cr.)
  • PHYS 457 (Satellite Meteorology) (3 cr.)

  • NOTE: A maximum of 6 credit hours are allowed from PHYS 381 (Internship), PHYS 390 (Research), and PHYS 399 (Tutorial).
    * = topics in these courses must involve atmospheric physics and must be approved by the department