A.B./B.S. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

The earth sciences have never been more critical to society than they are today. Global warming, dwindling energy resources, inadequate water supplies, political strife over strategic minerals, and mega disasters threatened by volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunami, and hurricanes: these are but a few of the headlines that appear with increasing frequency.

The earth and atmospheric sciences major is available to students in the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Arts and Sciences, and Engineering. The program is unique in that it incorporates fundamentals of earth science with the emergence of a new and more complete approach, encompassing all components of the earth system—air, life, rock, and water—to gain a comprehensive understanding of the world as we know it. Students may choose to focus on one of a number of disciplinary specialties such as geophysics or tectonics, or develop the broad expertise needed to understand the interactions between the diverse elements of earth and life in the past, present, and future.

Earth and atmospheric sciences graduates will be able to seek careers dealing with energy, mineral and water resources, natural hazards, weather and climate forecasting, ocean resources, and a host of environmental issues through employment in academia, government and the private sector. The major also prepares students for careers in environmental management and policy, law or medicine, science journalism and K-12 science education.

For further information about this major, contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Esteban Gazel (egazel@cornell.edu), or the Undergraduate Programs Coordinator, Carl Cornell (cec232@cornell.edu). Ready to declare the major? Visit Savannah Williams in 2124 Snee Hall!

Major requirements:

In addition to the requirements listed below, students must complete general requirements specific to their college. Students should visit their college's advising center for more information.

Prerequisites for Admission to the Major*

An understanding of the Earth requires a strong grounding in math and the basic physical and biological sciences. The requirements described below are the minimum requirements for the major. Students anticipating graduate study or careers in the earth sciences are strongly urged to complete additional math and basic sciences courses relevant to their concentration.

* Students must be in good standing with their college and receive a C- or better in all prerequisite courses to be admitted to the major. Students must take all prerequisite courses for a letter grade. Students still completing the prerequisite courses can be admitted to the major provisionally.


At least two courses in calculus: MATH 1110 + MATH 1120 or MATH 1910 + MATH 1920

  • Students who place out of both semesters of calculus with AP credit must take an additional math course at Cornell University.
  • Students in the College of Engineering must complete MATH 1910, MATH 1920, MATH 2930, and MATH 2940.


At least two courses in calculus-based physics: PHYS 2207 + PHYS 2208 or PHYS 1112 + PHYS 2213

  • Students who take PHYS 1112 + PHYS 2213 are also strongly encouraged to take PHYS 2214.
  • Students in the College of Engineering must complete PHYS 1112 + PHYS 2213.


At least two courses in chemistry: CHEM 2070 or CHEM 2090 + CHEM 2080 or CHEM 1570

  • Students who take PHYS 1112 + PHYS 2213 may substitute PHYS 2214 for their second course in chemistry.
  • Students in the College of Engineering must complete CHEM 2090.


At least one course in biology, chosen from the following: BIOG 1140, BIOG 1440, BIOEE 1610, BIOEE 1780, BIOMG 1350, BIOSM 1610, or BIOSM 1780

  • Students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences must complete an additional course in biology. For their second course in biology, students may take any biology course that satisfies the CALS Introductory Life Sciences/Biology Requirement (see here for specific courses). We recommend the courses previously mentioned and EAS 1560.

Advisor-Approved Course in Math, Statistics, Computer Science, or Natural Science

An advisor-approved course in statistics, computer science, mathematics, or natural science (including, but not limited to, a course in astronomy, a second course in biology, or an additional course in physics or chemistry).

  • Students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences fulfill this requirement by completing a second semester of biology (see "Biology" section above).
  • Students in the College of Engineering may use CS 1110 (or equivalent) to fulfill this requirement, in which case an additional major-approved elective is required (see "Additional Required Courses" section below).

Major Requirements*

* Students must receive a C- or better in all major required courses and take all major required courses for a letter grade.

Introductory Course

  • EAS 2250 The Earth System

Students in the College of Engineering may count EAS 2250 The Earth System as an ENGRD course in fulfilling their college core curriculum requirements. Students who choose to do so must take an additional major-approved elective (see "Additional Required Courses" section below).

Core, Concentration, and Field Courses

After completing the introductory course, students select a concentration. Four concentrations are defined for the major: Atmospheric Sciences, Environmental Science, Geological Sciences, and Ocean Sciences. Students also have the option of designing their own concentration tailored to their interests in consultation with their advisor and upon approval of the EAS Curriculum Committee. Students are required to complete three concentration-appropriate core courses, four concentration courses, and a field course. Please click on each concentration below for additional information about the concentration, including specific course requirements.

Atmospheric Sciences

Environmental Sciences

Geological Sciences

Ocean Sciences


At least three courses selected from the following core course options:

  • EAS 3010 Evolution of the Earth System
  • EAS 3030 Introduction to Biogeochemistry
  • EAS 3040 Interior of the Earth
  • EAS 3050 Climate Dynamics

Concentration Courses

Concentration courses build depth and provide the student with specific expertise in some facet of earth system science. Four concentration-appropriate courses at the 3000-level or above are required. It is expected that concentration courses be at least 3 (structured) credits; however, alternate courses can count towards the concentration course requirement with agreement of the student's academic advisor and approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Field Experience

Exposure to the basic observations of earth science in the field is necessary to fully understand the chosen area of concentration in the major. A minimum of 3 credits of appropriate coursework is required, although more experience with field work is encouraged. Possibilities include the following:

  • EAS 2500 Meteorological Observations and Instruments
  • EAS 4370 Field Geophysics
  • Courses in SEA Semester
  • Field courses offered at Shoals Marine Laboratory*
  • Field courses offered by another college or university*
  • Experience gained participating in field research with Cornell faculty (or REU at another institution)*

*Field course options marked by an asterisk (*) require pre-approval by the faculty advisor and the EAS Curriculum Committee. These courses/internships/REUs should require observations to be taken in the field and interpreted by the student. Field courses should generally require 40+ hours of active observation and data collection in the field. Students using a non-credit research option for the field course requirement are required to complete an additional EAS concentration course.

Additional Required Courses

(For Students in the College of Engineering Only)

Students in the College of Engineering must also take a major-approved elective at the 3000-level or above.

  • Students who elect to count EAS 2250 as an ENGRD must take an additional major-approved elective.
  • Students who elect to use CS 1110 (or equivalent) to fulfill their advisor-approved course in math, statistics, computer science, or natural science requirement must take an additional major-approved elective.

Students in the College of Engineering must also take three outside major electives and two advisor approved electives. These courses must be approved by the student's advisor.