MEA 321 – Fundamentals of Air Quality and Climate Change

Course Summary

This course provides an intermediate-level introduction to the field of chemical meteorology (air quality and climate change) for meteorology majors. This course deals with: the atmosphere’s chemical composition; atmospheric chemical reaction (including photochemistry) processes in gas phase, liquid phase, and on particle surfaces; atmospheric transformation of the important gases as well as particle-borne natural and anthropogenic pollutant substances; interaction of electromagnetic radiation (UV, visible and IR) and species in the air (gas and particles); dispersion on local, regional and global scales; effects on changing atmospheric composition on the global climate; air quality in Raleigh and Research Triangle Park, NC, as well as underlying causes.

After taking this course the student should to be able to explain chemical and physical processes that are fundamental for the Earth’s radiative balance and thus for our climate; explain sources and sinks of gases and particles of importance for environment and climate; explain the interplay of atmospheric gases and particles from a chemical and meteorological perspective; apply basic chemical and physical laws to the transformation of gases and particles as well as to their transport in the atmosphere.


Attendance is mandatory. After the first week of classes, attendance will be monitored daily. Each absence will result in adverse impact on your final grade.


In order to monitor attendance, random quizzes will be given. There will be up to three quizzes spread out over the length of the course.


Outlines of the notes (in Adobe pdf format) are available at the class Moodle website. If you print the notes from the web site, you may only need to make marginal notes during class, hence be able to participate in classroom discussion.


Out of respect for your instructor and fellow classmate you will turn off cell phones, refrain from talking and reading newspapers. Violators will be asked to leave and marked absent.


Two exams (one mid-term and a Final) will be given during the semester.


The mid-term exam will count for 30% of the grade, Final will count 50%. The quizzes will count for 5% of the grade. Class participation is 5%, and home work is 10%.

Student Conduct and Honor Code

Students will be expected to adhere to the highest ethical standards as they pertain to class assignments, quizzes and exams. In essence this requires that any work that you submit as your own be your own. Participants in the class are encouraged to discuss class topics with each other, me or anyone else who might be interested or helpful. It is appreciated that in some cases there may be ‘gray’ areas in terms of what constitutes your work or someone else’s. If you are uncertain about a situation, contact us for clarification. Some assistance may be found at this link and this link. By putting your name on any work submitted in this class, it will be assumed that you are attesting to the Honor Pledge “I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this test or assignment.”

Special accommodations

Reasonable accommodations will be made for students with verifiable disabilities. In order to take advantage of available accommodations, students must register with Disability Services for Students at 1900 Student Health Center, Campus Box 7509, 515-7653. For more information on NC State’s policy on working with students with disabilities, please see:

Course Syllabus

  • Overview of the Global Atmosphere: Density, Pressure, Temperature, and Chemical Constituents
  • Origin of the Earth’s Atmosphere: Formation and Evolution of the Earth System
  • Sun-Earth Relationships: Rotation of Earth and time zones, Revolution around the Sun, Seasons, Cycle of Sun’s declination, and Solar Constant
  • Atmospheric Transport: Geostrophic flow; The General Circulation; Vertical Transport; and Turbulence
  • Radiation Budget of the Atmosphere: Solar Zenith angle; Wavelength and frequency; Blackbody radiation; Stefan-Boltzmann law; Wien’s displacement Law; Scattering, absorption and extinction
  • Air Quality Modeling and Chemical Kinetics: Rate law; fundamentals of reaction kinetics; rate constant
  • Atmospheric Chemistry: Sources, and Sinks of Trace Gases, Hydroxyl Radical, Reactive Nitrogen, Carbon, and Sulfur Compounds
  • Tropospheric Ozone: Formation, Chemistry, and Distribution
  • Stratospheric Ozone and the Ozone Hole: Anthropogenic perturbations to stratospheric ozone
  • Biogeochemical Cycling of Trace Gases: The hydrologic cycle, carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycle
  • Atmospheric Aerosols: Sources, chemical composition, Transport, sinks, chemical composition, and size distribution
  • Global Climate Change: The buildup of greenhouse gases; increased concentration of aerosols Global temperature and rainfall distributions; interactions of air quality on climate (direct and indirect effects); El Nino; radiative forcing
  • Acid Rain/Deposition: Chemical composition of precipitation, sources of acids, emission trends