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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Postgraduate Courses (School of GeoSciences)

Postgraduate Course: Atmospheric Quality and Global Change (PGGE11007)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course aims to introduce and explain the current knowledge of and concerns regarding atmospheric quality and global climate change. Anthropogenic and natural sources of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) and potentially harmful pollutants (e.g. sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, heavy metals), their effects on the environment, current monitoring methods and options for mitigation are explored. The effects of human activities on different ecosystems are explored through specific examples and case studies. Mitigation options for reducing emissions by changing land use, transport and urban infrastructure and by using renewable energy are considered. Topics ranging from land-atmosphere interactions and the global carbon cycle to renewable energy and the Paris Agreement will be covered.
Course description Lectures take place between 9.30 am and 1.00 pm (Semester 1) on Thursdays in Lecture Theatre E in the SRUC (Peter Wilson) building at KB. Any timing and location changes will be announced. Note that occasionally lecture slot start and finishing times will be earlier depending on the amount of material being covered, provision of guidance sessions afterwards and other teaching commitments.

1 19 Sept Introduction. Land Atmosphere interactions, the greenhouse effect, impacts of climate change; sources and sinks of greenhouse gases (J Cloy)
[Potential essay topics provided and discussed afterwards (J Cloy)]

2 26 Sept Observed climate change, the greenhouse effect and human influence on climate, natural climate variability, modelling the climate system, predicting future climate (D Stevenson)

3 3 Oct The global carbon cycle ┐ concepts and managing the terrestrial cycle, land atmosphere exchange, ecosystem carbon cycling/GHG budgets, climate change, land use and management impacts (J Cloy)
Global methane emissions; measurement and mitigation (U Skiba)

4 10 Oct The use of different modelling approaches at different scales. Land-use and climate change. Modelling GHG emissions. Parameterisation and validation. The challenge of upscaling. Inventory reporting (B Rees)
[Essay assistance session afterwards (J Cloy)]

5 17 Oct Trace gas emissions. Emission sources and inventories. Acidifying and eutrophying substances. Photochemical pollutants (B Bealey).

6 24 Oct Urban air quality and health (M Heal)

Acidification and eutrophication effects (B Bealey)
7 31 Oct Renewable energy. Biomass and hydro power, solar and wind power (J Campbell).

Afternoon field excursion to biomass plant (J Cloy)
8 7 Nov Morning field excursion to CEH monitoring station (Bush estate) (J Cloy, Ute Skiba)
Tutorial session with group discussions. Relevant research paper critique. Details of the paper will be provided/announced on Learn beforehand (J Cloy)

9 14 Nov Mitigation of GHG emissions. Technical end economic feasibility. International agreements on air pollution; Kyoto/Paris Agreement (B Rees/J Cloy)
[Presentation assistance session afterwards (J Cloy)]

10 21 Nov Student Presentations (Assessors: J Cloy, B Rees, D Stevenson, A Hamilton, S Buckingham TBC) (9.00 am ┐ 1 pm) Class split into 2 groups - lecture theatres E and F.

11 28 Nov Revision session (J Cloy) (9.00 am ┐ 11 am)

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  60
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 44, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 152 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Course Assessment

Half of the module mark is provided by the final exam, the other half comes from an essay and short presentation.

The Atmospheric Quality and Global Change essay (~3000 words) needs to be submitted on Thursday 7th November (week 8) (37.5% of the total module mark). Further information about the essay assignment and a range of potential topics will be provided in week 1 (24th Sept).

Essay topic approval
Your proposed essay topic and/or provisional title must be emailed by 5 pm on Thursday 5th November (week 7) to the course organiser Joanna Cloy ( for approval.

Short oral presentations based on selected essay topics are given on Thursday 21st November (week 10). Presentations are strictly 8 minutes each. If students go under this time they will get questions. The presentations are worth 12.5% of the module mark and the presentation is marked as follows by two independent markers: Technical content (50% of mark), oral (25% of mark) and visual (25% of mark).

The Atmospheric Quality and Global Change class is split into groups of up to 10 students. Students must bring slides on a data stick and it is essential that they turn up early to prevent delays. Students should attend all the presentations in their assigned group. Students will be penalised for turning up late. Students don't need to formerly submit presentation slides but they can be emailed to the course organiser ( beforehand.

Assignment Submission
The Essay assignment must be submitted via Learn AND as a hard copy through the SRUC postgraduate secretary Elspeth Martin (email: If required, Elspeth can provide guidance on uploading submissions. Presentation slides will not be submitted via Learn but copies of students┐ presentation slides will be kept by the course organiser.

Assignment Guidance
A short informal lecture offering essay guidance will be provided following week 4 lecture on 10th October. Similarly, oral presentation tips and guidance will be provided following week 9 lecture on 14th November. Guidance lectures are not compulsory and all materials will be uploaded on Learn.

Feedback Opportunities for feedback
Students can discuss their essay topics and structure with the course organiser and/or teaching staff but feedback on written drafts of students essays cannot be provided. Electronic assignment feedback forms will be completed by markers for each essay. More specific written feedback may also be provided on annotated printed hard copies of the essays which were submitted.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)Theory exam2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. ┐ Understand current concerns regarding atmospheric quality and global change (drawing on IPCC 5th Assessment Report in particular).
  2. ┐ Understand key processes that have an impact on atmospheric quality e.g. sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, the global carbon cycle, biogeochemical cycling of nutrients, renewable energy, biological responses to global change, acid rain, urban transport and air pollution.
  3. ┐ Appreciate renewable energy and new technologies as mitigation options for reducing the impacts of anthropogenic release of pollutants into the atmosphere.
  4. ┐ Build awareness of modelling approaches used by scientists for future climate change/air quality predictions and the use of historical records of climate change for unravelling the true impacts of human activities on the environment.
  5. ┐ Understand key facts about renewable energy, greenhouse gas/atmospheric quality monitoring and experimentation through lectures and field visits and develop an understanding of relevant measurement, monitoring and modelling techniques for atmospheric quality.
Reading List
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (links to Fifth assessment report and Global Warming special report).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). gases online.

News on research on GHGs (hosted by Edinburgh University).

The Kyoto protocol.

The Paris Agreement

Information on EU policy and approaches to the environment

Information on climate change from the authoritative science journal Nature.

United Nations Climate change reports

Committee on Climate Change. UK Government. Low carbon economy, emissions targets.

The University of East Anglia, Climate Change Research Unit reports

DUKES (digest of UK energy statistics)┐

Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE)

UK Government renewable energy information.

UK government air pollution monitoring information.

Lovejoy T. E. & Hannah L. 2019. Biodiversity and climate change. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Reay D. 2010. Methane and climate change. Earthscan, London, UK.

Smith K.A. 2010. Nitrous oxide and climate change. Earthscan, London, UK.

Smith J. and Smith P. 2007. Environmental modelling. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Bonan G. 2019. Climate Change and Terrestrial Ecosystem Modeling, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Seinfeld J.H. and S.N. Pandis. 2012. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics: From Air Pollution to Climate Change, 2nd Edition. John Wiley & Sons, Chicago. USA.

Cotrufo M.F. 2014. Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems. In: Freedman B. (Ed). Global Environmental Change. Springer Science + Business Media, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

Reay D. 2015. Nitrogen and Climate Change: An Explosive Story. Palgrave Macmillan, London, UK

Peake S. 2017. Renewable Energy: Power for a Sustainable Future, 4th Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsAtmospheric Quality and Global Change - Atmospheric quality,global change,greenhouse gases,atmosp
Course organiserDr Joanna Cloy
Tel: 0131 535 4213
Course secretaryMrs Elspeth Martin
Tel: 0131 535 4198
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