Physics and chemistry of air pollution

5 ECTS credits (LUOVI4)

22 October to 2 November, 2012

Intensive course in Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station, Finland


Course aims

Atmospheric aerosol particles influence the Earth’s radiation balance both directly by scattering and absorbing solar radiation, and indirectly by acting as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). Increased aerosol and CCN concentrations lead not only to increased scattering of light back to space, but also to higher cloud albedos. Enhanced CCN concentrations can also lead to increased cloud lifetimes. One of the main points of interest in the atmospheric aerosol research are nucleation events, formation bursts of new aerosol particles.

Atmospheric measurements aim to the analysis of emission, formation, transport and deposition of gaseous as well as particulate pollutants including their role in tropospheric cloud formation. Sub-projects within atmospheric research are aerosols, atmospheric chemistry, cloud microphysics, micrometeorology and irradiation. These measurements are facilitated by a mast and tower built up in the forest on the SMEAR II (Station for Measuring Forest Ecosystem – Atmosphere Relations) in Hyytiälä, Finland.

The course gives an extensive view on the measurements done in the SMEAR II stations, the data produced, and the methods to analyze the data.
Course contents

The course takes place at the SMEAR II station (Station for Measuring Forest Ecosystem-Atmosphere Relations) in Hyytiälä includes a 72 m high triangular measurement tower, and a 60 m2 big warmed cottage for instruments and computers. In the surroundings of the cottage there are four mini watersheds, 35x40m, 30x40m, 15x20m and 15x25m of area. The station is located within Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) stand.

SMEAR II station has top class instrumentation for measurements of aerosol microphysics, atmospheric chemistry, micrometeorology, gas exchange and water balance of trees and soil processes. The data starting from 1995 is freely available in the databanks. The aerosol size distribution and number flux measurements down to 4-10 nm were first initialised at SMEAR II and shoot chambers and set-ups for measurements of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) are unique.

The course involves thorough introduction to the measurements at the station as well as analysis of the data produced at the station. During the course the participants learn to access and handle the data, which they then can utilize in their further studies.

The topics included in the course are:

  • Introduction to SMEAR II station
  • Introduction to atmospheric physics and chemistry
  • Biosphere – atmosphere interactions
  • Analysis of data from SMEAR II station
  • Statistical methods

In the course the students utilize 12 year aerosol, gas and meteorological data measured at Hyytiälä station to learn some basic data treatment methods, data analysis methods, to learn how to working with MatLab and SQL-databases. Emphasis is put on analysis of new particle formation events: the behavior of pollutants during the event, origin of air masses when the events occur, separating events to natural and anthropogenic ones and separating events by other characteristics.

The lectures include the following topics:

  • Aerosol basics
  • Biological activity
  • Flux measurements
  • Volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere
  • Water transport in ecosystems
  • Statistical analysis of measurement data
  • Analysis of airmasses
  • Atmospheric chemistry
  • Mesoscale meteorology
  • Aerosol formation
  • Science philosophy
  • Academic writing


Teaching and assessment

The course consists of a set of lectures and intensive working in small groups. The students write a scientific report based on results from analysis. A scientific manuscript, based on the reports, will be prepared and submitted to a peer reviewed journal.

The course is organized by the University of Helsinki, Department of Physics, Division of Atmospheric sciences.

The responsible teacher is professor Markku Kulmala.


Students are graded for the course according to the following levels: passed/failed. The course is worth 5 ects credits.

Price: 2000 EUR for non-students

Further information: course web page, markku.kulmala @



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *