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Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences

CNMOCNearly every U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps mission is affected by either oceanic or atmospheric conditions.  Meteorology and Oceanography (METOC) Officers and the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC) are responsible for providing tailored, timely, and accurate forecasts and recommendations in order to gain battlespace tactical advantages and to ensure mission success.  Navy equipment, people and decision making all rely on the technical and tactical advice of (METOC) Officers as they:

  • Help guide ships, aircraft and troops with recommendations based on atmospheric and oceanic forecasts and conditions
  • Relay forecast updates and weather warnings to military and civilian authorities
  • Prepare oceanic charts and maps for anything spanning navigation to search-and-rescue efforts
  • Maintain the military’s primary master clock, which provides the most precise time interval in the world and drives the Global Positioning System (GPS)

Navy Meteorologists and Oceanographers may serve in a wide variety of settings, working anywhere in the world – from serving aboard aircraft carriers or amphibious ships to conducting research at the Naval Postgraduate School, the Naval Observatory, or Naval Research Labs. Learn more about METOC Officers >>

Sources:, NMOC

Applicability throughout the Fleet and Marine Corps

Surface Warfare

USS Curtis WilburSurface Warfare Officers (SWOs) are trained to navigate, maintain, and operate the most advanced fleet of ships in the entire world.  In this role, SWOs need to adapt to the ever-changing environmental conditions to keep equipment and personnel safe, while also seeking to use atmospheric and oceanic conditions to gain tactical advantages.  SWOs make critical decisions about Navy vessels, logistics, and how to support various warfare missions daily-- all of which can be impacted by environmental conditions.   As an oceanography major, you will study oceanic dynamics, currents, waves, tides, meteorology, and all aspects of the physical marine environment. Therefore majoring in oceanography and learning the fundamentals of meteorology and oceanography will serve SWOs throughout their Navy careers.

Naval and Marine Corps Aviation

Navy helo in heavy seasWhether the mission is taking part in antisubmarine warfare, search and rescue, surveillance, or logistics/supply, the safety and mission success of Navy and Marine Corps Pilots and Flight Officers always depends on the atmospheric conditions. Pilots to be able to recognize bad weather and are specially trained to operate their aircraft in those conditions.  Flight Officers need to know the how the meteorological conditions will impact navigation and aircraft system safety.  As an oceanography major, you will take courses in atmospheric thermodynamics, methods, and processes, and will have the option to take elective courses in Synoptic Meteorology (weather patterns and forecasting) and Tropical Meteorology (tropical process and system).  A strong background in meteorology and atmospheric processes is essential for successful Aviators. 

Marine Corps Ground

U.S. Marine Corps amphibious assault vehiclesMarine Corps Officers are responsible for mission success and safety when conducting land-based and amphibious operations.  This includes offensive, defensive, humanitarian, reconnaissance and security operations conducted from a variety of platforms, all over the world.  Therefore, Officers in the Marine Corps must know the physical environment where they are conducting missions and how changes in the environment will impact the outcome.  When conducting a mission on the ground, Marine Corps Offices need to recognize changing weather conditions. As an oceanography major, you will take courses in atmospheric thermodynamics, methods, and processes, and will have the option to take an elective courses in Synoptic Meteorology which is important for weather pattern recognition and forecasting. When the mission requires an amphibious element, Marine Corps Offices need identify and understand how waves, tides, and coastal conditions will impact mission success.  As an oceanography major, you will study waves and tides, and will have the option to take elective courses in Nearshore Oceanography and Estuarine Oceanography that will prepare you for your career in the Marine Corps.


Navy Special Warfare and Explosive Ordnance Disposal

US Navy SEALsWhen missions require specialized assets, training, and talent, the U.S. Navy relies on Naval Special Warfare units, including the Sea, Air, and Land Forces (SEALs), explosive ordinance disposal technicians, divers, and rescue swimmers.  While each of these groups relies on tailored forecasts, recommendations, and information from Navy METOC Officers, once the mission starts, the Officers in charge of these special warfare units must understand the environment, how it can change, and what it means for mission success.  For example, SEALs conduct areal, land-based, and amphibious operations, and therefore SEAL Team Officers must have a broad knowledge in both atmospheric and oceanic conditions.  As an oceanography major, you will be exposed to a broad background in atmospheric and oceanic processes, included courses in atmospheric thermodynamics, oceanic dynamics, waves, and tides.  In addition, specialized electives are available including Nearshore Oceanography (amphibious operations and assaults), Synoptic Meteorology (weather pattern recognition and forecasting), and Estuarine Oceanography (littoral missions in more urban settings or politically charge environments).  A background in meteorology and oceanography will help Naval Special Warfare Officers navigate the environmental conditions during an operation and increase the likelihood of mission success when our Nation needs it the most.


Submarine Warfare
Navy sub breaks the iceNavy nuclear submarine Officers are charged with navigating and operative the most advanced and secretive vessel in the Fleet.  To do this, submarine Officers must having working knowledge of both the oceanic conditions they operate it and what is happening at the surface above them, without the assistance from forecasters at the surface.  This includes a background in currents, tides, sea ice, the vertical structure of the water column and, most importantly, underwater acoustic to gain tactical advantages.   As an oceanography major, you will take courses in oceanic dynamics, waves and tides, and underwater acoustic. In addition, the Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences Department offers an elective course Polar Oceanography, which is an evolving battlespace for submariners on our changing planet.
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