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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Earth's Atmospheric Composition (EASC10127)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWe will explore the chemical composition of the atmosphere, with an emphasis on the troposphere (lowest 10-15 km of the atmosphere) where we live and breathe. We will study the surface processes and atmospheric chemistry and transport that determine observed variations in regional and global tropospheric chemical composition. We will cover the fundamentals of atmospheric chemistry (e.g., kinetics, photolysis) so there is no chemistry pre-requisite to this course. The course content, as described below, will be delivered using online material, online class interaction, problem sets and additional reading.
Course description Week 1:
Introduction; basic atmospheric properties; simple models

Week 2:
Stratospheric chemistry and the ozone layer

Week 3:
Tropospheric chemistry 1: Electromagnetic spectrum; hydroxyl radical; oxidation of methane and carbon monoxide; and cycling of hydrogen oxides.

Week 4:
Tropospheric chemistry 2: Nitrogen oxides; tropospheric ozone; ozone formation and control strategies

Week 5:
Tropospheric chemistry 3: surface emissions and deposition processes

Week 6:
Tropospheric chemistry 4: atmospheric particles

Week 7:
Air quality and human health

Week 8:
Biogeochemical cycles

Week 9:
Atmospheric chemistry and transport

Week 10:
Reserved for office hours

Further Course Information

Lecturer-maintained website:

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Earth Modelling and Prediction 2 (EASC08026) OR Mathematics for Physics 2 (PHYS08036)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written Exam: 50%, Course Work: 50%

The formal written exam will take the form of two numerical questions.
The course work includes two computer labs, each including a directed 300-word literature survey. Both directed literature surveys will include pre-assigned papers to review and summarise.

The literature surveys will be marked following the common marking scheme.

Assessment deadlines
Assessed computer labs, including directed literature surveys, will be set in Weeks 5 and 8 of semester 1 and due on the Wednesday of Weeks 6 and 9 of semester 1, respectively, at 12 noon via online submission. The formal written exam will be sat in the May exam diet.

Assessed Computer Lab 1 - Due Wednesday Week 6, 12noon via Turnitin
Assessed Computer Lab 2 - Due Wednesday Week 9, 12noon via Turnitin

Assessment and Feedback information All details related to extensions procedures and late penalties can be found in the Course Handbook 2019/20
Feedback Lecturer-student feedback will be provided on the:
- responses to the two assessed computer labs in Weeks 5 and 8
- two 300-word literature surveys that accompany the two assessed computer labs, outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the composition and analysis as per the assessment instructions
- exam script in written form
There will be an opportunity to get feedback during class as part of interactive discussions.

Tutor-student feedback will be provided via targeted revision classes throughout the semester. These sessions will support the learning outcomes of the class activities.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)1:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the composition of Earth's atmosphere
  2. Understand the role of atmospheric transport and chemistry, and surface processes, on observed atmospheric composition
  3. Appreciate how computer models are formulated and applied to further scientific understanding
  4. Be able to interpret and question quantitatively information reported in the scientific literature
  5. Be able to digest and reduce information in the scientific literature and write a succinct report
Reading List
Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry Jacob (Recommended)

The Atmosphere: A Very Short Introduction, Palmer, Oxford University Press (Recommended as a short, accessible overview)

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Seinfeld and Pandis (A secondary in-depth resource)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsAtmospheric chemistry,atmospheric transport,aerosols,inverse methods
Course organiserProf Paul Palmer
Tel: (0131 6)50 7724
Course secretaryMs Katerina Sykioti
Tel: (0131 6)51 5251
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