Atmospheric Chemistry (METR 4220 / ESCI 5220)

What ingredients go into the chemical soup known as urban air pollution?

What ingredients go into the chemical soup known as urban air pollution? Why do we have an Ozone Layer?

Syllabus (PDF)
Course flyer (PDF)


Course Description Atmospheric Chemistry is a broad and multidisciplinary sub-field of Atmospheric Sciences that combines aspects of meteorology and chemistry to improve our understanding of major multi-scale problems such as urban and regional air pollution and global and polar ozone depletion. The course is an elective for the Meteorology BS, Earth and Environmental Sciences BS, and Chemistry BA and BS. It is also cross-listed as ESCI 5220 for graduate students. Check with your advisor about the Chemistry major, or check with me if you are a Meteorology or Earth and Environmental Sciences major. The course includes a semester-long project and presentation related to using hand-held, portable air monitors to test hypotheses about air quality variability. Usually students work in groups and the projects are centered near campus. A really memorable day with unusually poor air quality affected Charlotte mid-November 2016, so this course helps students understand local, regional, and global scale air chemistry.

Atmospheric chemistry directly and indirectly impacts climate and meteorology, but the chemical state of the atmosphere at any time is determined by the principles of chemistry and meteorology. In this course, we will discuss how basic physical chemistry and the Earth’s atmosphere are related. We will examine topics that include air quality, stratospheric chemistry, ozone depletion and the ozone hole. Throughout the semester, we will touch on the critical role that atmospheric chemistry plays in global warming.

Course Objectives

1. Develop an understanding of the chemical processes in the atmosphere that are important to weather, climate, and the environment
2. Develop an understanding of how chemical processes in the atmosphere are part of the Earth System.
3. Hone critical thinking skills through observations, hypothesis, deduction, and problem solving

Textbook Sources Primary Textbook: Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry, D. J. Jacob (PDFs available online and hard copy at Atkins library). Supplemental Textbooks: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics: From Air Pollution to Global Change, J. H. Seinfeld and S. Pandis; Chemistry of the Upper and Lower Atmosphere, B. J. Finlayson-Pitts and J. N. Pitts; Basic Physical Chemistry for the Atmospheric Sciences, P. V. Hobbs; Earth Under Siege, R. P. Turco; Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry, P. V. Hobbs (texts are available at Atkins library)

Course Catalog Description METR 4220 / ESCI 5220. Atmospheric Chemistry. (3) Prerequisites: CHEM 1251 and MATH 1242 with a grade of C or above, or permission of instructor. Basic physical chemistry and a survey of major topics in atmospheric chemistry including fundamental properties of the atmosphere, tropospheric chemistry, air pollution, acid rain, stratospheric chemistry and the ozone hole, and the role of chemistry in the Earth’s climate. Three hours of combined lecture and lab per week. (Spring)

Note that this course was listed as METR 4000 / ESCI 5000 for Spring 2012 and Spring 2013, which is the generic placeholder system at UNC Charlotte until a course is fully approved by various committees. Thus METR 4000 / ESCI 5000 evolved into METR 4220 / ESCI 5220.
Image of Charlotte, North Carolina in November 2016 after smoke was transported from fires on the eastern NC Appalachian mountains.  Air Quality Index was red for a day, which is really rare.  Photo is from WBTV tower cam.

Image of Charlotte, North Carolina in November 2016 after smoke was transported from fires on the eastern NC Appalachian mountains. Air Quality Index was red for a day, which is really rare. Photo is from WBTV tower cam.