Graduate Certificate in Climate Science (GCeCS)

Capstone Requirements
Recent Capstone Projects
Admission Requirements


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 project in Communicating Climate Science.
Proposed Graduate Certificate in Climate Science, Approved December 2007


The GCeCS will consist of 17 credits, including 3 graded courses, 1 seminar/reading courses and a capstone project that includes a second seminar/reading course.

Course Requirements (11-12 credits)

(1) Physical climate:
Fundamentals of Global Warming Science (ATM S/OCN/ESS 587, 3 credits, offered Autumn Quarter, requires one semester of calculus) OR
Climate Dynamics
(to be offered Fall 2013, 3 credits, requires differential equations)
(2) Climate and biogeochemistry:
The Global Carbon Cycle and Greenhouse Gases (OCN/ATM S/ESS 588, 3 credits, generally offered Winter Quarter)
(3) Applications of climate science. Pick one of:
Option 3a: Paleoclimatology- Data, Modeling and Theory (ESS/OCN/ATM S 589, 3 credits, Spr, alt yrs).
Option 3b: Paleoclimate Proxies (OCN/ATMS/ESS 554, 3 credits, Sp, alt years).
Option 3c: Climate Modeling (ATM S/ ESS 559 and OCEAN 558, 4 credits, Sp, alt yrs).
Option 3d: Governmental Responses to Climate Change (SMA 521, 3 credits, A).
Option 3e: The Changing Arctic Ocean (OCN 497/508, 3 credits, Sp).
Option 3f: Ice and Climate* (ATM S 514/ESS 535, 3 credits).
Option 3g: Planetary Atmospheres (ATM S 555/ESS 581, 3 credits)
(4) PCC Seminar: Current Research in Climate Change (OCN/ESS/ATM S 586, 2 credits, Au, Wi and/or Spr).

*Pending approval

Capstone Requirements

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.

(1) GCeCS seminar: Communicating Climate Science (OCN/ATMS/ESS 593, 1 credit, Winter 2015 and likely alternate yrs)
2013 Course
Other options include:

  • COM 597 Special Topics in Communication: Science Communication (Winter 2012, 2013, 5 credits, Instructor: Usha McFarling)
  • PB AF 595 Topics in Environmental Policy and Management: Ethics and Practice of Climate Change Communication and Community Engagement Strategies (Winter 2013, 4 credits, Instructor: Ann Bostrom)
  • OCEAN 506 Science and Technology News and Feature Writing (Winter 2012, 3 credits, Instructor: Deborah Illman)
  • PB AF 595 Communicating Climate Change (Winter 2012, 4 credits, Instructor: Ann Bostrom)
  • OCEAN 592 Communicating Ocean Sciences (Spring 2012, 4 credits)
  • ENVIR 500A Science Communication & the Media (Spring 2012, 2 credits, Instructor: Liz Neeley)
  • ENVIR 500 Graduate Seminar in Environmental Studies : Science Writing for Impact (Autumn 2013, 2 credits, Instructor: Stacey Solie)

For updates and information about future course offerings please visit our course pages:

(2) Capstone Project (OCN/ATMS/ESS 596, 5 credits) will be designed by the student in collaboration with a member of the GCeCS Advisory Board, or faculty mentor designated by the GCeCS board, who will be responsible for oversight and grading of the project. Effort can be split over multiple quarters if appropriate. Potential capstone projects: internships with local agencies/journalists, creation and use of K-12 outreach materials; organization of seminars/workshops.

LuAnne Thompson ( is currently acting as the faculty advisor for the GCeCS.

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.

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

Recently Completed Capstone Projects

Stephen Po-Chedley (Atm S), Advised by Alison Cullen (Evans School of Public Affairs)
Project Title: Climate and Agriculture in Developing Countries: Communicating Climate Science to Public Policy Students and NGOs
Stephen partnered with the University of Washington Evans School Policy Analysis and Research Group (EPAR) to produce a set of research briefs on "Crops and Climate" in Sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on wheat, sorghum, and millet. The research briefs were co-authored with current students in the Evans School without a strong background in climate science and presented to the Agricultural Policy and Statistics group at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Elly Walsh (Education)
Project Title: Strategies for Teaching Climate Science in the High School
In her project, Elly partnered with graduate students involved in climate outreach to help refine their curriculum. She also developed a standards document tying climate science learning goals to National science education standards.

Twila Moon (ESS) Advised by Suzi Taylor (Montana Sate University's Extended University) and Julian Sachs (Oceanography)
Project Title: Climate Science Explained: Understanding Current Issues on Climate Change
Twila partnered with Montana State University Extended University to develop a non-credit course in climate science for the general public, titled "Climate Science Explained." The main objective of the class was to provide participants with enough knowledge to understand basic climate science and to better understand climate topics in current news and politics.

For descriptions of additional capstone projects completed by students participating in the PCC Climate Certificate Program, click here.

Admission Requirements

Prerequisites include either:
(a) admission to the graduate programs of either Atmospheric Sciences, Earth and Space Sciences, or Oceanography, or

(b) admission to a graduate program or non-matriculated status at the University of Washington, and at least six quarters (four semesters) of undergraduate or graduate coursework in geophysical science, chemistry, biology or physics, including at least one quarter of chemistry all with an average grade of B (3.0) or above.