SOEE2481 Atmospheric Pollution from Local to Global Scales

Reading List
  • Taught: Semester 2 View timetable
  • Credits: 10
  • Class Size: 50
  • Module Manager: Prof Martyn Chipperfield
  • Email:
  • Pre-Requisite Qualifications: A level Chemistry or SOEE1131 or SOEE1280
  • This Module is approved as a Discovery Module
  • This module has the following Pre-requisites:
    • SOEE1131 Introductory Chemistry for Earth and Environmental Scientist
    • SOEE1280 The Atmosphere of Planet Earth

Discovery module overview

Module Summary

Module Summary

This module gives an overview of the sources, processing and transport of air pollutants in the atmosphere from local to global scales. The course examines tropospheric ozone pollution, smogs, particulate matter, acid deposition and toxic pollutants, and their impacts on local and regional air quality and on the global-scale atmosphere.
The balance between human and natural influence on atmospheric constituents will be examined. The course is pitched at an appropriate level, using data from satellites, aircraft and monitoring networks to illustrate the key processes.
The module is assessed by means of a written exam (70%) and tutorials (30%). This module is taught in semester 2 through lectures and tutorials.


  • 1. To give an overall view of the features/properties/composition of our atmosphere from local to global scales.
  • 2. To cover, in depth, some of the current problems related to atmospheric pollution (tropospheric ozone production, smog formation and acid rain, particulate matter). To demonstrate that solutions to these problems require an understanding of scientific principles, coupled with social and political change.
  • 3. To understand the natural and anthropogenic influences on the atmospheric pollution over various time-scales.
  • 4. To understand basic issues related to local/regional air quality.


  • 1. INTRODUCTION: Composition of the atmosphere, Vertical structure of the atmosphere, Atmospheric lifetimes, Exchange of matter between the atmosphere and the surface
  • 2. ATMOSPHERIC OBSERVATIONS: Summary of terminology, Comparison of different platforms, Example observations: ground-based, balloon, aircraft and monitoring atmospheric composition from space
  • 3. KINETICS – rate equations, production/loss rates, residence times, spatial scales of different pollutants
  • 5. TROPOSPHERIC PHOTOCHEMICAL AIR POLLUTION: Oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere; Formation of OH radical, Oxidation of CO; Oxidation of CH4, Oxidation of VOCs, Photochemical smogs and ozone Production;
  • 6. PARTICULATE MATTER IN THE ATMOSPHERE. Definition, Aerosol sizes, Sources-emissions, sulphate / nitrate formation, Measurement of particulate matter, aerosol sinks, Effects of atmospheric particles: human health, visibility
  • 7. NATURAL SOURCES – biogenic emissions, wildfire
  • 8. DRY / WET DEPOSITION, acid deposition and its effects.
  • 9. BASIC AIR QUALITY – effects of meteorology, trends, toxic pollutants, emission inventories.

Learning Outcomes

  • 1. Basic understanding of the complexity of pollutant budgets in the atmosphere.
  • 2. Understanding of some of the current atmospheric pollution problems: surface ozone , smog formation, acid rain, particulate matter, toxic pollutants.
  • 3. Understanding of basic chemical processes controlling the atmospheric lifetimes of pollutants and secondary pollutant production.
  • 4. Understanding of basic air quality science – monitoring networks, emission inventories, urban pollution.
  • 5. Appreciate the wide range of timescales and spatial scales on which different pollutants act.
  • 6. Written skills.
  • 7. Numeracy and C&IT skills.

Assessment and teaching

Assessment and teaching


Assesment type Notes % of formal assesment
In-course Assessment Tutorial Work: 2 written exercises to complement lectures (2 x 15%) 30
Total percentages (Assessment Coursework) 30


Exam type Exam duration % of formal assessment
Exam with advance information on questions 1 hr 30 mins 70
Total Percentage (Assesment Exams) 70

Private Study

  • - Background reading / personal study: 40 hours
  • - Tutorial preparation: 14 hours
  • - Exam preparation: 30 hours.

Progress Monitoring

Formative assessment through:

  • - feedback on tutorial work
  • - discussion room.

Summative assessment through a final written exam.

Teaching methods

Delivery type Number Length hours Student hours
Lecture 14 1 14
Tutorial 2 1 2
Private Study Hours 84
Total Contact Hours 16
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits) 100

Reading List

Reading List

  • 1) `Chemistry of Atmospheres? (3rd Edition) by R.P Wayne published by OUP 2000.
  • 2) `Atmospheric Chemistry? by B.J. Findlayson-Pitts and J.N. Pitts published by John Wiley 1986
  • 3) `Atmospheric Pollution and Environmental Change? by S. Metcalfe and D. Derwent published by Hodder Arnold, 2005
  • 4) `Atmospheric pollution? by M. Z. Jacobson CUP 2002.
  • 5) `Atmospheric Pollution? by D. Elsom. Blackwells.
  • 6) `Atmospheric Change? by T.E. Graedel and P.J. Crutzen, W.H. Freeman, 1993.

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