Department Goals

Our goals are to educate and contribute, through teaching and research, to a fundamental scientific understanding of the Earth system.

The Earth as a coupled system of atmosphere, ocean, land and cryosphere has changed in our lifetimes.  The observed depletion of stratospheric ozone at high latitudes has been attributed directly to industrial use of halocarbons.  Global warming is likely to result from increases in the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, which are released by use of fossil fuel and agricultural practices.  These examples illustrate the ability of humans to alter the global environment on the time-scale of decades.  Understanding the sensitivity of the Earth’s climate system requires a broad base of scientific knowledge which includes detection, quantification, and prediction of the rates of change of chemical, physical and biological variables in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and terrestrial biosphere.

Our research interests focus attention on the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and terrestrial biosphere and on processes with the potential to change these systems over a human lifetime.  An integrated approach is needed and our program requires a balance of field, laboratory and theoretical studies.  Field and laboratory measurements define the rates and mechanisms of processes and exchanges within and between the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and terrestrial biosphere.  They also provide information on the controls and feedbacks influencing these exchanges and permit identification of natural and anthropogenic processes.  Long-term observations of the Earth system, along with historical data sets and paleoclimate records, provide baseline data against which trends may be defined.  The parallel development of predictive numerical models incorporating these processes is needed to interpret observations and to assess changes on regional and global scales.  

The department’s doctoral and post-doctoral programs are aimed at training new research scientists in the field of Earth System Science. Our goal in graduate education is to develop a comprehensive curriculum and to conduct outstanding research involving graduate students.  Our doctoral-level students are expected to become researchers with a global perspective and broad research skills as well as a high level of expertise in specific areas.

Our undergraduate education program is aimed at preparing citizens who are capable of making informed environmental decisions. Graduate students make an important contribution to the ESS undergraduate program by serving as teaching assistants.  The undergraduate curriculum includes courses for scientists and non-scientists alike and emphasizes an understanding of the basic science involved in global change of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere and terrestrial biosphere.

Members of the department participate in review and assessment panels as well as in public forums so as to provide expert advice and evaluation regarding the scientific bases for global environmental policy at the state, national and international levels. The department is committed to recruiting and maintaining an internationally recognized faculty at both junior and senior levels with broad interests and experience, committed to collaborative, interdisciplinary research and education.

Our success should be judged by the quality of our students, by our contributions to interdisciplinary research and education on the Irvine Campus, and by widespread recognition as a lively intellectual center attractive to the best students, postdoctoral researchers, and visiting faculty.