Apr 13, 2024  
2019-2020 SDSM&T Academic Catalog 
2019-2020 SDSM&T Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences Program

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Undergraduate Studies

Contact Information

Dr. William J. Capehart, Program Coordinator
Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences
Mineral Industries 201
(605) 394-1994
E-mail: William.Capehart@sdsmt.edu


Emeritus Professors Detwiler, Helsdon, Hjelmfelt; Associate Professors Capehart, French, Kunza and Kliche; Instructor Clabo.


The Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (AES) Program studies the physical, chemical, and biological processes that affect the composition and dynamics of the weather, climate and ecosystems. Research is directly linked to undergraduate and graduate programs that provide a fundamental understanding of the earth system, and opportunities for applied research, theoretical research, and technical training to prepare students for careers in meteorology, atmospheric science, ecology remote sensing and environmental technology.

The program supports Bachelor of Science,  Master of Sciences and Doctoral Degrees in atmospheric and environmental sciences and an undergraduate minor in atmospheric sciences.  The MS program includes options for an accelerated BS-MS option and a Thesis vs. Non-Thesis option.

Facilities and Resources

Students typically work directly with faculty on externally-funded research projects. Graduate research assistantships associated with these projects are available that provide part-time employment for students during the academic months and possible full-time employment during the summer. Facilities and resources of the department are utilized in these research efforts. These facilities comprise various meteorological instrument platforms and packages including several automated surface weather stations and laser optical distrometers. biogeochemical laboratories, high-performance computer facilities are available on campus, with additional access to the larger computer complexes at national laboratories.

Faculty Research

Current research projects include field investigations of thunderstorms; applications of weather radar data to rainfall measurements and remote inference of cloud microphysical characteristics; numerical modeling of clouds ranging in size from small cumulus to severe storms including storm electrification, lightning, and lightning-influenced atmospheric chemistry; analysis of field observations and numerical simulations of complex surface ecosystems; land-surface hydrology; satellite remote sensing; land-surface/atmosphere exchange processes; fire weather prediction and modeling; biogeochemical cycling; and ecological modeling. In addition, our faculty, as active research scientists, are currently involved in activities to disseminate scientific knowledge to wider audiences and improve and enhance scientific literacy and educational opportunities for the people of South Dakota.

Federal Certifications as a Meteorologist

Students in the any of the atmospheric and environmental programs majors or minors wishing to be qualified for federal employment as meteorologists (such as with the National Weather Service or other federal government agencies employing meteorologists) should contact an Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences advisor to ensure that their plan of study meets the strictly enforced civil service requirements. The Baccalaureate Interdisciplinary Sciences, Atmospheric Sciences Specialization, program of study from catalog year 2010 and onward satisfies these requirements.  Graduate degree requirements presuppose prior undergraduate credit for many of the federal requirements and may require supplemental coursework.   The basic requirements for federal civil service qualification as a meteorologist (as dictated by the United States Office of Personnel Management for the GS-1340 Meteorology Series) are as follows:

Degree: meteorology, atmospheric and environmental science, or other natural science major that includes

  1. At least 24 semester hours (36 quarters) of credit in atmospheric and environmental science/meteorology including a minimum:
    1. Six semester hours of atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics
    2. Six semester hours of analysis and prediction of weather systems (synoptic/mesoscale)
    3. Three semester hours of physical meteorology and
    4. Two semester hours of remote sensing of atmosphere and/or instrumentation
  2. Six semester hours of physics, with at least one course that includes laboratory sessions
  3. Three semester hours of ordinary differential equations
  4. At least 9 semester hours of coursework appropriate for a physical science major in any combination of three or more of the following: physical hydrology, statistics, chemistry, physical oceanography, physical climatology, radiative transfer, aeronomy, advanced thermodynamics, advanced electricity and magnetism, light and optics, and computer science. 

OR: Combination of education and experience-coursework as shown in A above, plus appropriate experience or additional education.

Note: There is a prerequisite or corequisite of calculus, physics, and differential equations for coursework in atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics. Calculus courses must be appropriate for a physical science major.

Bachelors in Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences

The Bachelor of Science in Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences   is designed around a series of math and science courses that fulfill the federal certification as a meteorologist (see above) and careers in weather forecasting. In addition to this core, 24 credit hours of elective coursework allow students to specialize in areas such as air quality, climate resiliency, computing and data analysis, environmental science, and fire meteorology; or pursue a minor in a related math, science, or engineering discipline. The successful student is expected to be capable of independent and critical thinking in the areas of physical, synoptic, and dynamic meteorology; remote sensing; and global atmospheric change. As such, students completing this program are well-prepared for a range of careers spanning the atmospheric and environmental sciences job space. The curriculum also is suitable for preparation toward graduate study at the M.S. and Ph.D. level.

Atmospheric Sciences Undergraduate Curriculum Scheduling

It is the student’s responsibility to check with his or her atmospheric and environmental science advisor for any course offering or other program modifications that may occur after the publication of this catalog. Most atmospheric and environmental science courses are offered only every other year. Attention must be paid to this two-year cycle in planning a program of study.

Undergraduate Minor in Atmospheric Sciences

A Minor in Atmospheric Sciences is available to any student enrolled in an undergraduate degree program that allows minors at the School of Mines. For some majors this would require an additional semester or more of study beyond the normal four years. Four courses (12 credits) are required: Introduction to Atmospheric Sciences (AES 201 ), Global Environmental Change (AES 406/506 ), Atmospheric Thermodynamics (AES 404/504 ) and Synoptic Meteorology (AES 450/450L ), along with 6 additional credits of atmospheric and environmental science or approved elective coursework.  A details on the minor and a list of elective courses that qualify can be found here:Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, BS   

Master of Science Graduate Degree Program

A Master of Science graduate program in the Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences is offered to students with undergraduate degrees in atmospheric sciences or meteorology, physics, mathematical sciences, biology, chemistry, or engineering. A resident undergraduate student in any of these fields may take upper division courses in meteorology as electives, either as part of their undergraduate degree program or otherwise, and proceed directly to graduate work in meteorology upon receipt of the bachelor’s degree. In addition to meeting the goals listed above for undergraduate minor and IS ATM graduates, the M.S. AES graduate will be able to review the literature; devise strategies for attacking a problem in atmospheric and environmental sciences; acquire, organize, and interpret data; and prepare results for both oral and written presentation. The candidate is expected to be able to carry out such original investigations both individually and as a member of a team.

An accelerated B.S.-M.S. degree program is also to students at SD Mines.  Students admitted to the accelerated program may apply up to 9 credits of approved 400/500/600 level AES course work taken as undergraduate or approved electives for the B.S. degree requirements to the M.S.  All elective courses must be approved in advance of registration by major professor or program coordinator.

The M.S. AES Program has both thesis and non-thesis options.   The thesis option requires a total of 32 credit hours of which a minimum of 6 credit hours (but no more than 9 credit hours) of research credits reserved for completing a thesis.  The non-thesis option requires 32 credit hours of which 3 credit hours are reserved for an M.S. research project.  There are two specializations in the program, meteorology and earth systems.. A properly-prepared undergraduate science or engineering graduate with minimal meteorological background may use the M.S. program to complete sufficient coursework to satisfy the federal civil service requirements for employment as a meteorologist. The M.S. program can be a stepping-stone to Ph.D. work in the atmospheric and environmental sciences, as well as a terminal degree leading to employment in private industry or government.  See here for more details:  Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, MS  

Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Graduate Program

In addition to the M.S. program in atmospheric and environmental sciences, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology offers the Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (AES) Ph.D. program. Faculty in several departments are involved in delivering the program, including civil and environmental engineering, geology and geological engineering, and atmospheric and environmental sciences. Degree candidates are expected to complete courses in a broad range of topics selected from these disciplines.  See here for more details:  Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, PhD  

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Undergraduate Studies