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CHEM 458 A: Air Pollution Chemistry

MW 9:00am - 10:20am / ATG 310
F 9:30am - 10:20am / ATG 310
Joint Sections: 
ATM S 458 A
Joel A. Thornton

Syllabus Description:

ATMS/CHEM 458: Air Pollution Chemistry

Meeting Times and Location: Mondays + Wednesdays:  9-10:20 am and Fridays 9:30-10:20 am in Room 310C in the Atmospheric Sciences Geophysics building (ATG).


Course Web Page:


Course Description

In this course, we will examine the 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.


Primary learning objectives:

1)    Understand the chemical and physical mechanisms underlying issues related to local and regional air quality in the context of past and future regulatory approaches;

2)    Develop skills using numerical models of these complex phenomena for hypothesis testing and mechanism development;

3)    Be able to understand and discuss the international implications of air quality regulations or the lack thereof on the development and efficacy of national standards.



Prof. Joel Thornton (; 543-4010; Office: ATG 508). Contact me with any questions, best is via the Canvas messaging tool, or in person right after class

Office hours: Via Zoom weekly, Wednesdays 430 - 530pm and Thursdays 4 - 5pm, or e-mail me to set up a time.

Grading policy:

Problem sets: 20%

4 exams: 60%, Dates to be determined (includes 1 final exam), all exams will be via Canvas

Class participation (in class exercises + discussions): 20%*

  • Make-up exams are not offered unless the instructor is contacted ahead of time. 
  • Late problem sets are accepted, but the maximum possible credit decreases 20% per week late without prior permission from the instructor.

*We will solve problems in class, first in pairs or small groups, then together. You will be expected to lead the solution explanation on several occasions throughout the quarter. In addition, we will read and discuss scientific papers. You will be expected to provide a brief discussion, questions, or comments on the paper or specific content therein. Attendance in person is not required to complete the questions or discussion aspects - see Prof. Thornton for more details.

Topics covered:

  1. Fundamentals: Physical Chemistry and Atmospheric Physics
  2. Chemistry of the background atmosphere
  3. Atmospheric Particulate Matter and Ozone
  4. Urban Air Quality and Regulation
  5. Instrumentation and Measurement Methods
  6. Stratospheric Ozone Depletion: Development of a detailed understanding
  7. Greenhouse effect and global warming


Recommended Textbooks:

Air Pollution and Global Warming. Mark Z. Jacobson, Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition, 2012.

Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry, by D.J. Jacob, Princeton University Press. This textbook is freely available online:


Students will also be required to read outside material of direct relevance to the class from scientific journals. Electronic copies will be provided by the instructor.


Another useful textbook:

“Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics: from Air pollution to Climate change” J.H. Seinfeld and S.N. Pandis, Wiley, 2006. Note that the latest version of this book is available online via the UW libraries:

Student Conduct Expectations:
All UW students agree to abide by, and familiarize themselves with, the Student Conduct Code when
enrolling at the University of Washington. All students in ATM S courses are expected to abide by the
Student Conduct Code (also known as WAC 478-120). The possession, use, or distribution of
controlled substances, firearms, and dangerous weapons will not be tolerated. Physical abuse, sexual
harassment, or harassment of any kind (including online), for any reason, will not be tolerated.
Violations will be immediately reported to the Community Standards and Student Conduct, and possibly
the UW Police Department. The Student Conduct Code can be viewed HERE.

If you have questions or concerns regarding an alleged violation of the Student Conduct Code please
contact your instructor, ATM S Student Services (206-543-4576 or, or Community
Standards and Student Conduct (206-685-6194 or

Religious Accommodations
Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for the accommodation of student absences or
significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s
policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious
Accommodations Policy. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course
using the Religious Accommodations Request form available HERE

Disability Resources
We are committed to the success of each one of the students in this class. Further, it is the policy and
practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments
consistent with federal and state law. Disability Resources for Students (DRS) offers resources and
coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary or permanent disability that
requires accommodations (including, but not limited to: mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical, or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206‐543‐8924
or or visit the DRS website. 

Safety and Mental Health Resources
Your physical safety and mental health will significantly impact your academic success.  
Any member of the UW community can call SafeCampus anytime to anonymously discuss safety and
well-being concerns for yourself or others. If you need to talk to someone right now:
 --UW partners with My SSP (Student Support Program) to give students access to real-time,
confidential mental health and crisis intervention.  It is available 24/7 and in multiple
languages.  You can:
o Call from within the US or Canada: 1.866.743.7732
o If calling from outside the US or Canada: 001.416.380.6578
o Chat with a My SSP counselor on the My SSP website  

--You can also reach out, 24/7 to call Crisis Connections:  866.427.474 or text HOME
to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor

For longer-term help, the UW Counseling Center is available for virtual visits.  You can call them at
206.543.1240  Please see UW Wellbeing website for the full list of available mental health and safety resources at UW.

COVID-19 Response Plans and Expectations

This class is conducted in-person.  Students are expected to participate in class to fully benefit from course activities and meet the course’s learning objectives.  Students should only register for this class if they are able to attend in-person and are willing to wear a face mask at all times in the classroom and building. 

To protect their fellow students, faculty, and staff, students who feel ill or exhibit possible COVID symptoms should not come to class. When absent, it is the responsibility of the student to inform the instructor in advance (or as close to the class period as possible in the case of an unexpected absence), and to request appropriate make-up work as per policies established in the syllabus.  What make-up work is possible or how assignment or course grading might be modified to accommodate missed work is the prerogative of the instructor.  For chronic absences, the instructor may negotiate an incomplete grade after the 8th week, or recommend the student contact their academic adviser to consider a hardship withdrawal (known as a Registrar Drop).

In the event the instructor becomes ill or exhibits possible COVID symptoms, students will be notified via Canvas that the in-person class will be canceled and relevant content or discussion will be provided by a Zoom meeting at the regular class time if warranted.

Class sessions may be simulcast via Zoom in the event of students needing to quarantine, and they may be recorded so students may watch them later for any reason. The recording will capture the presenter’s audio and computer screen. Student audio and video will be recorded if they share their computer audio and video during the recorded session. The recordings will only be accessible to students enrolled in the course to review materials. These recordings will not be shared with or accessible to the public, and will be deleted after the course ends.

The University and Zoom have FERPA- (Links to an external site.) compliant agreements in place to protect the security and privacy of UW Zoom accounts. Students who do not wish to give consent to being recorded should:

  1. Choose a Zoom profile name that does not include any personal identifying information like their name or UW Net ID and do not upload a profile picture
  2. Not share their computer audio or video during their Zoom sessions

By enrolling in this class, all students agree to not upload the recordings to other platforms.  


Catalog Description: 
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. Offered: jointly with ATM S 458; A.
GE Requirements: 
Natural World (NW)
Section Type: 
Last updated: 
April 16, 2021 - 7:40am