Should I study climate science?

Climate change and natural climate variations are two of the most important issues facing Australia and the world in the 21st century.  The need for students who understand environmentally relevant physical sciences has never been greater.  Demand is currently high for graduates of programs in this area worldwide. Most of us here at the CCRC study quantitatively the atmosphere, ocean and land surface or how they work together.  This can have applications not only to climate but to fisheries, weather forecasting, water resource management and many others.  

Recent PhD graduates from the CCRC have gone on to research positions at CSIRO and in several overseas research institutions.  A Masters’ or Honours degree can be a stepping-stone to the PhD, or a great asset to anyone seeking non-research employment in areas that will be affected by environmental issues and changes, where good scientific training and rigorous decision-making are highly regarded.

Can I do it?

Many different scientific disciplines study aspects of climate using many methods.  Some projects are more hard-core (say, applying fluid dynamical theory to the calculation of oceanic and atmospheric flows) while others are centered on analysis of field measurements with a relatively simple theory component.  All projects benefit from skills in lateral and critical thinking, synthesis, and communication.  Students are expected to master the fundamentals behind their project, so as to ensure their research is solid and to provide a foundation for their career to flourish over time.

While the background needed varies substantially depending on the specific area, certain areas of undergraduate training are particularly useful:

  1. Physics (mechanics, waves, basic thermodynamics)
  2. Maths (multivariate calculus, linear algebra, basic statistics, differential equations)
  3. Chemistry, biology (basic or with environmental applications)
  4. Environmental Sciences (meteorology, oceanography, or hydrology courses)

Normally a student would be in good shape if they had covered about half of this; projects are also available that bridge more into social sciences and climate impacts.  Stronger background in a particular area (e.g., quantum or statistical mechanics, advanced data analysis, organic chemistry, quantitative ecology, geophysical fluid dynamics, etc.) can set a student apart and increase their chance of a research breakthrough.

Applicants who do a PhD normally should show previous research experience and/or hold an honours or Masters’ level degree, though these are not absolute requirements.  PhD students in Australia are expected to finish in under four years and normally do little if any coursework.

I’m interested.  What do I do next?

First, you should have a look through our staff and research pages to get a better idea of which experts here you might want to work with, and contact them for project ideas. For details about different courses please go to the CCRC postgraduate and undergraduate study pages.

Latest news

Dr Michael Molitor Public lecture - De-carbonising for growth: why everyone is wrong about the costs of addressing climate change
20 April 2014
We will rapidly de-carbonize the global energy system not because we care sufficiently about the enormous risks flowing from a climate system profoundly modified by human activity but because, in the absence of this gigantic infrastructure investment opportunity, we will never generate sufficient economic growth between now and 2050. This inevitable outcome has dramatic implications for Australia's future energy supply and prosperity.

Plastic bottle caps found in the ocean (source: NOAA PIFSC) Ocean debris leads the way for castaway fisherman
05 February 2014
The fisherman who washed up on the Marshall Islands last weekend was very lucky to have stranded on a remote beach there. The currents in the Pacific Ocean would have inevitably taken him into the great garbage patch of the North Pacific, where he could then have been floating for centuries to come.

Man in heat wave Get used to heat waves: extreme El Niņo events to double
20 January 2014
Extreme weather events fuelled by unusually strong El Niņos, such as the 1983 heatwave that led to the Ash Wednesday bushfires in Australia, are likely to double in number as our planet warms.

More news...

Copenhagen Diagnosis logo

The Copenhagen Diagnosis

On 25th November 2009 members of The Climate Change Research Centre, as part of a group of 26 international climate scientists, were part of a major international release of a new report synthesizing the latest climate research to emerge since the last IPCC Assessment Report of 2007.

Read more...

World map

There are no time-travelling climatologists: why we use climate models

In the absence of time-travelling climatologists, models are unrivalled tools for understanding our changing climate system. That is, climate models are scientific tools. We should recognise them as such and consider them with rigorous scientific, not political, scepticism.

Read more...

Antarctica

The Big Engine 2: oceans and weather

Federation Fellow and 2008 Eureka Prize winner, Professor Matthew England of CCRC, on the latest research into the role oceans play on weather.

Read more...

Smoke stack

The Science of Climate Change: Questions and Answers

Co-authored by Professor Steven Sherwood and Professor Matt England of CCRC, this Academy of Science report aims to summarise and clarify the current understanding of the science of climate change for non-specialist readers.

Read more...

Ocean weather

The Big Engine 1: oceans and weather

Federation Fellow and 2008 Eureka Prize winner, Professor Matthew England of CCRC, on the latest research into the role oceans play on weather.

Read more...

Tree rings

New insights into the climate of the past 2,000 years

A comprehensive new scientific study has revealed fresh insights into the climate of the past 2,000 years, providing further evidence that the 20th century warming was not a natural phenomenon. After 1900, increasing temperatures reversed a previous long-term cooling trend. This 20th Century warming has occurred simultaneously in all regions except Antarctica.

Read more...

Ocean

The dynamics of the global ocean circulation

The ocean is far from a stagnant body of water. Instead, it is constantly in motion, at speeds from a few centimetres per second to two metres per second in the most vigorous currents.

Read more...

Plastic rubbish

Leave the ocean garbage alone: we need to stop polluting first

Recent plans to clean plastics from the five massive ocean garbage patches could do more damage to the environment than leaving the plastic right where it is.

Read more...

Plastic rubbish

Charting the garbage patches of the sea

Just how much plastic is there floating around in our oceans? Dr Erik van Sebille from UNSW's Climate Change Research Centre has completed a study of ocean "garbage patches", and has found that in some regions the amount of plastic outweighs that of marine life.

Read more...

COECSS logo

UCC logo

Share | | RSS feed