The School of Atmospheric Sciences at Nanjing University

The School of Atmospheric Sciences at NJU is the cradle of modern meteorological education and research in China. It has been one of China’s most respected degree programs in atmospheric sciences.

The opening ceremony of the School of Atmospheric Sciences (top), and the group photo (bottom).

The history of this discipline at NJU can be traced back to 1905, when the physics curriculum first included meteorological courses at Liang-Jiang Normal School, one of the predecessors of the university. In the 1920s, Dr. Kochen Chu founded the Department of Geoscience at the National Southeast University (which later on became National Central University). In 1924, the department established three research disciplines in geology, meteorology, and geography. This was the earliest meteorology major in China and was the basis of the country’s first department of meteorology, established at the National Central University in 1944.

In 1952, the National Central University meteorology program became part of the reorganized Nanjing University. In 1986, the department of meteorology was renamed the Department of Atmospheric Sciences when the first Atmospheric Environment major in the nation was established. In 2008, the Department of Atmospheric Sciences was promoted to the level of college within the university and gained its current name of School of Atmospheric Sciences (SAS).

The meteorology/atmospheric science program at Nanjing University began to enroll doctoral students in 1986 and established its post-doctoral research station in 1996. In 1998, the doctoral program of Nanjing University Atmospheric Sciences gained the First-Grade Doctoral Program designation within China. In 2000, the Key Laboratory of Mesoscale Severe Weather/Ministry of Education of China (MOE) was established, and in 2008, SAS came into being.

Over the years, the department and school have undertaken a large number of national-level research projects, made significant contributions in basic and applied research in atmospheric sciences, and made key scientific and technological achievements in the field for national economic and social development and for national defense. Meanwhile, the program has trained more than 6,000 meteorological professionals, producing many professors, researchers, and outstanding operational weather forecasters. Among them are 11 academicians of Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering. The atmospheric science program at NJU has been a key supplier of advanced-level research and operational meteorologists to the country.

Overview of the school buildings

Over the past 90 years, the atmospheric science program at NJU’s SAS has established itself as a leading school for atmospheric science education and research, where students and researchers are inspired to seek advanced knowledge and scientific advancement and innovation and make their marks in the world. SAS has the Ministry of Education designations of the doctorate program and post-doctoral research station in atmospheric sciences, and doctoral and master’s programs in sub-disciplines of meteorology, atmospheric physics and atmospheric environment, climate systems and climate change. Each year, it recruits about 100 undergraduate, 40 master and 20 doctoral students. It emphasizes both “general” and “personalized” approaches to education, with special programs tailored to fulfill these goals. It has established multiple research and education platforms, including 12 Production-Teaching-Research-Application platforms in collaboration with the national meteorological and environmental protection agencies, the undergraduate “Innovation Program” and “Special Talent Program,” and “Center for Teaching Excellence Demonstration.” These platforms greatly facilitate the development of both research and application oriented talents among the students.

At present, SAS consists of 94 faculty members, including 24 full professors, 24 associate professors, 6 lecturers, and 21 researchers, and 50 of them have had overseas education experience. The faculty includes

  • 3 Academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (including 1 international faculty member)

  • 1 member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters

  • 1 winner of the "Changjiang Distinguished Professor" title by the Ministry of Education

  • 1 on the national “Thousand-Person Plan” special talent recruitment program

  • 2 recipients of the national “Distinguished Young Scientist Research Funds”

  • 2 on the national “Junior Thousand-Person Plan” recruitment plan

  • 3 titled “Principal Scientists of the National Foundational Research 973 Program"

  • 2 recipients of the national “New Century Tens of Thousands Talents Program”

  • 2 recipients of the national “Outstanding Young Scientist Research Funds”

  • 4 recipients of the Ministry-of-Education’s “Millennial Talent Program.”

In addition, the faculty members have also won many provincial and ministerial level special titles, awards and designations. Last but not least, one of the SAS’s Ph.D. dissertations won the prestigious national Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award.

Pictures of the four research institutions

SAS’s research activities are organized through several research laboratories. They include

  • Key Laboratory of Mesoscale Severe Weather/MOE

  • China Meteorological Administration-Nanjing University Joint Laboratory for Climate Prediction Research

  • Nanjing University - University of Helsinki Joint International Laboratory of Atmospheric and Earth System Sciences

  • China Meteorological Administration-Nanjing University Joint Center for Atmospheric Radar Research.

In the meantime, SAS has founded the first cross-disciplinary Institute for Climate and Global Change Research (ICGCR) with other schools of geosciences at Nanjing University. Based on ICGCR, SAS has established the “Jiangsu Climate Change Collaborative Innovation Center for Climate Change” with funding from the Jiangsu Province.

For teaching, SAS has a “Center for Teaching Excellence,” which contains a library and seven subsidiary education facilities, including those for “Weather Forecasting Training and Practice,” “Lab for Meteorological Measurements,” “Lab for Atmospheric Boundary Layer Observations,” “Lab for Atmospheric Chemistry,” “Lab for Atmospheric Remote Sensing,” “Lab for Numerical Simulations,” and the “High-Performance Computing and Data Center.” In total, SAS owns a high-performance computing platform consisting of more than 5000 CPU cores capable of 90 teraflops per second. 

Academic visits by SAA faculty at (left) the University of Oklahoma, and (right) University of Helsinki

During the period of the 12th national “Five-Year Plan,” rapid progress was made with the support of the national “211 Project,” “985 Project,” and “Advantage Discipline Development Program of Jiangsu Province.” Guided by the principle of “increasing the depth, broadening the scope, and maintaining uniqueness,” SAS applied the concept of “Enhancing strengths, developing applications, and promoting interdisciplinary collaborations” to the disciplinary development. It further enhanced its traditional research strength in the three areas of “Mesoscale Severe Weather,” “East Asian Monsoon and Climate Change,” and “Atmospheric Environment and Chemistry.” It established and strengthened research in “Radar Meteorology,” “Urban Meteorology” and “Meteorological Resource Applications” in response to the national needs and developed new interdisciplinary research in “Interactions of Air Pollution and Climate Change,” “Human Activities and Climate Change,” and “Socioeconomic Impacts of Climate and Global Changes.” As a result, the overall research scope and capabilities are significantly improved.

In recent years, SAS has significantly improved its observational and field experiment abilities for weather and earth systems. For example, it has established the “Station for Observing Regional Processes of the Earth System (SORPES)” and the “Mesoscale Mobile Weather Observatory” (TMNET), which includes a mobile C-band polarimetric weather radar and a fixed X-band polarimetric radar.

In the area of international collaborations, SAS has hosted the integrated Land Ecosystem-Atmosphere Processes Study (iLEAPS) international office (IPO), and has hosted and/or participated in several international scientific projects, such as “Understanding and Prediction of Rainfall Associated with Landfalling Tropical Cyclones” (UPDRAFT) project and the Pan-Eurasia Experiment (PEEX). Many innovative research results with significant international impact have been obtained, including those on the physical mechanisms and forecasting of severe weather such as several thunderstorms and tropical cyclones, the predictability and mechanisms of atmospheric general circulation and climate change in east Asia, and the distribution, transportation, and weather and climate effects of air pollutants. In recent years, more than 250 papers were published in SCI journals, and the faculty members have won provincial- and ministerial-level research awards six times, including two first prizes.

       SORES observation siteMobile                    Radar observation platform (TMNET)

 Observation platforms of the School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University

For more information visit the school's website.

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