MAQ-34806 Atmospheric Composition and Air Quality


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)dr. KF Boersma
Lecturer(s)dr. KF Boersma
prof. dr. MC Krol
Examiner(s)dr. KF Boersma

Language of instruction:


Mandatory knowledge:

ZSS06100 Laboratory Safety

Assumed knowledge on:

Basic knowledge on Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics

Continuation courses:

MAQ-31806 Atmospheric Modeling; MAQ-35806 Earth System Modelling; MAQ-5040X Capita Selecta Meteorology and Air Quality; MAQ-713XX MSc Internship Air Quality and Atmospheric Chemistry; MAQ-813XX MSc Thesis Air Quality and Atmospheric Chemistry;


The objective of this course is to show how simple principles of physics and chemistry can be applied to describe a complex system as the atmosphere, and how one can reduce the complex system to build models. The second objective is to convey a basic but current knowledge of atmospheric composition in terms of air pollution and greenhouse gas concentrations, and their effects, along with an appreciation for the research that led to this knowledge. This course gives students the knowledge and skills to understand today's most pressing issues in atmospheric chemistry and air quality. This includes the chain of processes that occur between emissions of pollutants from natural and anthropogenic sources, and their effect on ecosystems, human health, and the composition of the atmosphere. Special emphasis is on quantifying the effects of air pollution through acquisition and analysis of field measurements, and through numerical modelling of the processes involved (e.g., transport, chemistry, deposition, biogeochemical cycles). Sources, effects and possible abatement measures of local air pollution, acid deposition, eutrophication, ozone in troposphere and stratosphere (the Antarctic ozone hole) and climatic change are explained.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- explain the structure and composition of the atmosphere, and summarize the fundamental drivers of its composition;
- explain the global cycles of oxygen (O), carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) through the Earth reservoirs, and explain how these make life on Earth possible;
- summarize what controls climate on Earth. Students should be able to reflect on the different roles of climate parameters such as solar radiation, CO2, water vapour, aerosols and clouds;
- analyze the role of emissions and chemistry leading to ozone smog, and assess how ozone events may be countered in practice. They recognize the special role of aerosols in air pollution, climate change, and stratospheric ozone depletion;
- apply the concepts of emissions, residence time, lifetime, and distance of transport to set up a mass balance;
- analyse time series of air pollutant measurements and identify the main processes affecting them;
- apply a number of frequently used atmospheric composition models to evaluate various pollution scenarios.


- attending lectures;
- preparing homework assignments (exercises);
- participation in discussion on air pollution problems during lectures;
- practical use of models to investigate air pollution problems and the effect of abatement measures;
- writing reports on the practicals;
- presenting one scientific paper to class.


- written exam (50% but at least 5.5);
- evaluation of the homework (25%) and practical work on models (25%, but at least 5.5).


Reader for practicals; and Brightspace site with:Lecture notes in PDF; Practical calculations: questions + answers.
D.J. Jacob (1999 and last modified 2004). Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistrry. Princeton University Pres. ISBN-10: 06910018

Restricted Optional for: BSWSoil, Water, AtmosphereBSc2AF
MEEEarth and EnvironmentMScB: Spec. B - Meteorology and Air Quality2AF
MESEnvironmental SciencesMScA: Spec. A - Environmental Quality2AF
MCLClimate StudiesMScB: Spec. B - Biogeochemical Cycles2AF
MCLClimate StudiesMScA: Spec. A - The Physical Climate System2AF