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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Joel A. Thornton
ATM S 458
Seattle Campus

Air Pollution Chemistry

Global atmosphere as a chemical system emphasizing physical factors and chemical processes that give rise to elevated surface ozone, particulate matter, and air toxics; international issues of air pollution transport and changing tropospheric background composition; and regulatory control strategies and challenges. Aimed at science and engineering majors. Recommended: either ATM S 358 or CHEM 162, MATH 126, and PHYS 123. Offered: jointly with CHEM 458; A.

Class description

This course examines the atmosphere as a chemical reactor. We review basic physical chemical concepts to describe the factors which govern the sources, transformations, and removal of species in the atmosphere. We then apply these concepts to a wide array of atmospheric phenomena: stratospheric ozone depletion, tropospheric pollution, cloud chemistry (acid rain), atmosphere-biosphere exchange, and composition-climate interactions.

Student learning goals

1. Identify the similarities and differences in the chemical processes occuring in the various regions of the atmosphere

2. Be able to apply fundamental physical and chemical concepts to describe why and when atmospheric composition changes.

3. Quantitavily assess the role of human activities on atmospheric composition.

4. Analyze atmospheric observations to derive an understanding of the underlying chemical and physical mechanisms.

5. Describe the important couplings between the atmosphere and other Earth subsystems and their implications for feedbacks.

General method of instruction

A combination of lectures, group problem solving, and literature discussions are used.

Recommended preparation

Some general chemistry is helpful, but perhaps most useful is a strong foundation in algebra, simple calculus and first-year university physics.

Class assignments and grading

Aside from a few assigned readings of relevant scientific papers, graded assignments are a mixture of problem sets and computer-assisted data analysis (personal computer not required). The former are conceptual problems of a moderately quantitative nature, the latter are guided by step-by-step instructions and questions to explore real atmospheric chemistry data sets. Roughly 6 of these assignments for the quarter. There is also a final project where students chose a problem to research in greater detail and submit a 10-15 pg paper at the end of the quarter.

Grades are assigned based on the quality of the problem sets, data analysis reports, the final project, and to a small degree on participation in making measurements and the discussion of assigned readings.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Joel A. Thornton
Date: 09/13/2007