Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

ENVS3020 Air Quality and Environmental Pollution

Module Overview

The module has been designed to impart the scientific knowledge required to tackle the many problems associated with air and other types of environmental pollution, including how to identify and assess the nature, sources and effects of pollutants, how to measure and monitor pollution, and how to remediate existing problems using technology and/or management strategies. For example, we have learned over the last 60 years that poor air quality can have damaging effects on both the living and non-living environment. Air pollution can degrade forests, lakes, crops, wildlife, buildings and other materials as well as having a detrimental effect upon human health. We have had to devise methods to accurately measure and monitor the air that we breathe, develop technology to clean up polluted air from the industries we have created, and institute strategies to ensure that the air remains fit for now and for the future. All this has to be done within a limited budget and using best available practice. This module focuses upon all of these issues. It aims to equip students with the scientific knowledge and skills to make a professional contribution to current and future debates about air and other environmental pollution, and to the practical steps which need to be taken – whatever they may be – to maintain and improve environmental quality. Students will use their knowledge and skills to complete assignments that will test the learning outcomes for the module. This module does not have any pre-requisites, but some background in chemistry and biology is preferred. Students will be required to perform mathematical activities.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The need for both a multi-disciplinary and an interdisciplinary approach in advancing knowledge and understanding of Earth systems, drawing, as appropriate, from the natural and the social sciences.
  • The processes which shape the natural world at different temporal and spatial scales and their influence on and by human activities.
  • The terminology, nomenclature and classification systems used in environmental science.
  • Methods of acquiring, interpreting and analysing environmental science information with a critical understanding of the appropriate contexts for their use.
  • Issues concerning the availability and sustainability of resources, for example, the different value sets relating to the Earth's resources as commodities and/or heritage.
  • The contribution of environmental science to debate on environmental issues and how knowledge of these forms the basis for informed concern about the Earth and its people
  • The contribution of environmental science to the development of knowledge of the world we live in.
  • The applicability of environmental science to the world of work.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Recognising and using subject-specific theories, paradigms, concepts and principles
  • Analysing, synthesising and summarising information critically, including prior research.
  • Collecting and integrating several lines of evidence to formulate and test hypotheses.
  • Applying knowledge and understanding to complex and multidimensional problems in familiar and unfamiliar contexts.
  • Recognising the moral and ethical issues of investigations and appreciating the need for professional codes of conduct
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Receiving and responding to a variety of information sources (e.g. textual, numerical, verbal, graphical).
  • Identifying and working towards targets for personal, academic and career development.
  • Developing an adaptable and flexible approach to study and work.
  • Communicating appropriately to a variety of audiences in written, verbal and graphical forms.
  • Appreciating issues of sample selection, accuracy, precision and uncertainty during collection, recording and analysis of data in the field and laboratory.
  • Preparing, processing, interpreting and presenting data, using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques and packages including geographic information systems.
  • Solving numerical problems using computer and non-computer-based techniques
  • Using the internet critically as a means of communication and a source of information.
  • Identifying individual and collective goals and responsibilities and performing in a manner appropriate to these roles
  • Recognising and respecting the views and opinions of other team members
  • Developing the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (eg working independently, time management and organisation skills).
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Planning, conducting, and reporting on environmental investigations, including the use of secondary data.
  • Referencing work in an appropriate manner.


The module comprises a course of lectures, seminars and workshops that provide a scientific understanding of pollution in the environment by examination and evaluation of contemporary pollution issues. A broad range of topics is covered, including: • History of air pollution. • Physical and chemical composition of the atmosphere. Impacts of and on climate. • Physical and chemical characteristics of gaseous and particulate air pollutants. • Classification, pathways and atmospheric reactions of air pollutants. • Air quality trends relative to existing standards (national and international). • Impacts of air pollutants on living and non-living environments. • Atmospheric chemical reactions; modelling and dispersion of air pollutants. • Air quality management philosophies and strategies. • Monitoring/control techniques and strategies for air pollutants. • Social, economical, political, moral and legal aspects relating to air pollution control. • Air quality information systems. • Carbon footprinting. • Noise and light pollution. • Case studies.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The unit will be delivered by lecture, workshop and tutorial sessions. The sessions will be delivered by the course co-ordinator. Learning activities include: • Attendance at lecture, workshop and seminar sessions. • Self-directed learning - supplementary and complementary to lecture materials. This will include problem-solving exercises and quizzes. • Private study – research for and preparation of module assignment. Note that this is NOT a predominantly lecture-based module; every week the students will receive some guided learning material that they will be required to study in preparation for a tutorial the following week. The guided learning will NOT supply everything the students need. Rather, it provides a framework within which students can develop their knowledge and understanding through their own learning activities, as well developing your skills as an independent scientist. Wide reading is essential in order to get to grips with this key topic; students will need to demonstrate research and information technology (IT) skills in order to access some key items of reading material.

Practical classes and workshops2
Wider reading or practice25
Completion of assessment task30
Preparation for scheduled sessions30
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Report 50%
Take-away exam 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings