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Unit information: Atmospheric Processes in 2015/16

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Unit name Atmospheric Processes
Unit code EASC20027
Credit points 10
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2C (weeks 13 - 18)
Unit director Dr. Nick Teanby
Open unit status Not open

Successful completion of year 1 of the Environmental Geoscience degree programme curriculum.



School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

Earth's atmosphere comprises a thin layer of gravitationally bound gas and is all that separates us from the harsh environment of outer space. It is a complex system affected by many interacting physical, chemical, and biological processes. This unit investigates fundamental physical and chemical processes that determine atmospheric composition and structure, including techniques developed to measure them. It aims to provide a well rounded understanding of the key processes involved, gradually building up into a description of the complete atmosphere/climate system. It then moves on to consider the global climate system and climate change, including key ocean-atmosphere interactions and climate feedbacks. The techniques learnt will be used to explore the role of global feedback mechanisms and climate change. The course will also explore how these fundamental processes apply to other planets in our solar system.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit you will be able to:

  • Account for the overall composition and structure of the atmosphere.
  • Understand the interaction of solar radiation with the Earth's atmosphere.
  • Use simple greenhouse models to determine surface and atmospheric temperatures.
  • Understand basic photochemistry and chemical lifetimes.
  • Be aware of key global chemical cycles including the carbon cycle and processes responsible for the ozone hole.
  • Describe observation techniques used to measure atmospheric properties.
  • Understand the processes involved in cloud formation.
  • Understand the effects of ocean circulation and polar ice caps on global climate.
  • Explain the effect of various feedbacks on the climate system.
  • Describe and interpret the evidence for climate change and use simple models to evaluate the effects of these changes.
  • Apply fundamental atmospheric science principles to other solar system bodies.

Teaching Information

Lectures and practicals

Assessment Information

The unit will be assessed by a closed 2-hour examination, which will cover concepts covered in the lectures and practicals.

Reading and References

Most of the course material will be covered by these introductory textbooks:

  • Hobbs, PV. "Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry", Cambridge University Press.
  • Taylor, FW. "Elementary Climate Physics", Oxford University Press.

More in-depth treatment of various topics, and alternative explanations, can be found in:

  • Andrews, DG. "An Introduction to Atmospheric Physics", Second Ed., CUP.
  • Houghton, J. "The Physics of Atmospheres", Third Ed.,CUP.
  • Wallace, JM. and Hobbs, PV. "Atmospheric Science: an Introductory Survey", Second Ed., Academic Press.
  • Wayne, RP. "Chemistry of Atmospheres: An Introduction to the Chemistry of the Atmospheres of Earth, the Planets, and their Satellites", Third Ed., OUP.

Lecture notes and other course materials will be made available via Blackboard.