Atmospheric Composition and Air Quality


About this course

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 the composition of the atmosphere and on human health. Special emphasis is on quantifying the effects of air pollution through numerical modelling of the processes involved (e.g., transport, chemistry, deposition, biogeochemical cycles) and through acquisition and analysis of field measurements. Sources, effects and possible abatement measures of local air pollution, acid deposition, eutrophication, ozone in troposphere and stratosphere (the ozone hole) and climate change are explained.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

  • Explain and apply basic numerical calculations in atmospheric physics and chemistry
  • Analyze the role of various physical and chemical processes in air pollution, climate change, and ozone destruction
  • Set up and apply simple models to simulate atmospheric change
  • Critically evaluate scientific papers on the effect of air pollution on human health
  • 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

Required prior knowledge

Mandatory Knowledge:
ZSS06100 Laboratory Safety
Assumed Knowledge:
Basic knowledge on Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Wageningen University.


  • Start date

    28 October 2024

    • Ends
      20 December 2024
    • Term *
      Period 2
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      1 Jun, 00:00 - 29 Sept 2024
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University