The Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University was founded in 1961 by renowned tropical meteorologist Professor Herbert Riehl. The department originally was part of the Civil Engineering Department but became an officially recognized department in March of 1962. Currently the department operates under the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering.
The department had grown to eight faculty members by 1967 when it moved to a new building in the Foothills Campus on the western edge of Fort Collins. The department has continued to grow and flourish with expanded facilities at the Foothills Campus. These facilities include the main building, which provides office and classroom space for 200 faculty, students and staff; the ATS-CIRA Research Center (ACRC), which houses ATS/CIRA personnel and classroom/lab space; the Colorado Climate Center, the Atmospheric Simulation and Chemistry Laboratory, the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA); a weather analysis laboratory which supports mesoscale and synoptic scale analyses; a satellite receiving and analysis laboratory; and the CSU-CHILL Radar Facility.
Computing capabilities include both data analysis and modeling systems that operate mainly on clusters located within the department. The department develops and operates several models including Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS) and the General Circulation Model. Many smaller models are available to both researchers and graduate students.
In 1991, the Department of Atmospheric Science (ATS) was one of fifteen CSU departments recognized as a Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence (PRSE). This designation was the result of a newly established, competitive application process and was effective for a four year period. PRSE designation identifies the department as high priority for maintenance and enhancement resources. Selections were made by the university administration and were based upon a consistent record of superior accomplishments in research and graduate education. Key elements in the selection of ATS for this honor included uniqueness among other atmospheric science departments in the country with regard to funding over the last decade, professional achievements and awards received by faculty and graduates, and major publications. Designation of ATS as a PRSE was subsequently renewed in competitions in 1995, 1999, 2004, and 2008. In 2012 and 2016 ATS and CIRA were jointly designated as a PRSE.
The department’s faculty members are currently engaged in interdisciplinary research across a broad spectrum of the atmospheric sciences. Sponsors of these research projects include the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Naval Research, State of Colorado, Department of Interior, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, and Environmental Protection Agency.
As of Spring 2017, the department has 19 academic faculty members who guide the formal graduate instruction program and lead the aggressive, cutting-edge research activities. The department currently has 80 graduate students enrolled.
As of Summer 2016, the department has awarded 326 Ph.D. degrees and 705 M.S. degrees. Although the department does not offer B.S. degrees, several undergraduate-level courses are available.