Remote Sensing of Atmospheric Composition


About this course

Monitoring spatio-temporal trends in atmospheric composition, e.g., increases in greenhouse gas, aerosol and air pollutant concentrations due to anthropogenic emissions, is essential to understand how our planet is changing. Remote sensing from satellite platforms offers the opportunity to collect global-scale and long-term observations of the changing atmosphere, and is an indispensable tool to conduct environmental science and help society in the 21st century.

Remote sensing of the Earth’s atmospheric composition requires knowledge on how radiation and matter interact in the atmosphere. The objective of this course is to show how visible and thermal radiation propagates through atmospheres, how that propagation is changing climate through radiative forcing, how atmospheric pollutants (NO2, CO, HCHO) and greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, O3) produce unique spectroscopic signatures, how the properties of atmospheres may be quantitatively measured, and how those measurements relate to physical properties. This knowledge is key to appreciate and use the information that can be obtained from satellite observations of atmospheric composition.

The second objective of the course is to show how remote sensing measurements of atmospheric composition can be applied to enhance quantification and understanding of anthropogenic and natural emissions and deposition. The course gives students the basic skills to work with satellite data to monitor emissions, deposition, and trends in concentrations, along with an appreciation of the spatio-temporal limitations of remote sensing data.

This course aims to introduce students with an interest in remote sensing, geographical information systems, climate- and environmental change studies in;

  • fundamental theory and radiative transfer involved in remote sensing observations of Earth’s atmospheric properties;
  • uncertainties in- and representativeness of remote sensing observations;
  • processing and analysis of remote sensing observations involving visualization, data-processing and analysis software (application of python and notebooks);
  • examples of analysis of climate- and environmental change studies involving the application of atmospheric remote sensing data.

Learning outcomes

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

  • understand and apply numerical principles in radiative transfer and spectroscopy;
  • analyze the role of absorption, scattering, and propagation of radiation along the entire spectrum (UV/Vis to infrared) in climate forcing and in retrieval applications;
  • apply contemporary satellite retrievals to monitor spatial distributions and trends, to estimate surface fluxes, and to provide constraints on atmospheric models;
  • evaluate the potential and limitations of remote sensing for research into global change issues;
  • demonstrate their skills in processing, visualization and analysis of remote sensing datasets.

Required prior knowledge

Assumed Knowledge:
Students are expected to be familiar with or self-educate the physical principles on radiation and extinction (e.g. Chapter 7 of Jacob – Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry, MAQ34806, Clips 4(a) and 4(b) from Meteorology & Climate).

Link to more information

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


  • Start date

    10 March 2025

    • Ends
      2 May 2025
    • Term *
      Period 5
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      1 Jun, 00:00 - 9 Feb 2025
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University