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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE2481 Atmospheric Pollution from Local to Global Scales

10 creditsClass Size: 50

Module manager: Prof Martyn Chipperfield

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Pre-requisite qualifications

One of the following;
A level Chemistry, OR SOEE1135, OR SOEE1281


SOEE1135Foundation Chemistry

This module is approved as a discovery module

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 live lectures and pre-recorded material and small group 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.

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.


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, 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.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
On-line Learning200.5010.00
Private study hours78.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Private study

- Background reading / personal study: 34 hours
- Tutorial preparation: 14 hours
- Exam preparation: 30 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Formative assessment through:
- feedback on tutorial work
- discussion room.

Summative assessment through a final written exam.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
In-course AssessmentTutorial Work: 2 written exercises to complement lectures (2 x 15%)30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)30.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Exam with advance information on questions2 hr 00 mins70.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)70.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 06/03/2023


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