2023-2024 / SPAT0055-1

Atmosphere of the Earth


45h Th

Number of credits

 Master in space sciences (120 ECTS)4 crédits 


Denis Grodent

Language(s) of instruction

English language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

Atmosphere of the Earth

    Chapter I: Atmospheric structure

-Hydrostatic equilibrium
-Thermal structure
-Convection, radiation, conduction

    Chapter II: Interactions of Solar radiation with the atmosphere

-Solar radiation spectrum
-Variability of the Sun's emissions
-Radiative transfer equation and applications Energy balance and climate
-Greenhouse effect

    Chapter III: Photochemical processes and composition

-Photochemical action of radiation Photochemistry of the atmosphere Ozone: production and destruction

    Chapter IV: Atmospheric transport

-General equations of the atmospheric structure Molecular and turbulent vertical diffusion

    Chapter V: The Ionosphere

-Formation and structure Chemical composition Neutrality and electric field

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

This course is meant to provide students with basic concepts of atmospheric physiccs. The common thread of the course is the vertical thermal profile of Earth's atmosphere. At the end of the course, students should be able to explain the overal shape of this thermal profile and to link it with the chemical composition and the energy balance of the atmosphere. They will learn how atmosphere evolves in time and space.

This course contributes to the following (standard) learning outcomes:

  • Master the concepts, principles and laws of the basic sciences (mathematics, physics, chemistry, computing, etc.).
  • Demonstrate autonomy in their learning. In particular, be able to appropriate and synthesise scientific and technical information from a variety of sources (ex-cathedra presentations, literature, references, technical manuals and documentation, online resources, etc.).
  • Formalise, model and conceptualise a scientific or technical problem related to or inspired by a complex real-life situation in a rigorous language, for example using mathematical or computer language, in order to obtain results. Be capable of abstraction.
  • Analyse hypotheses and results critically and compare them with practical reality, taking account of uncertainties.
  • Apply advanced aeronautical and/or space technology techniques to the fields of propulsion and turbomachinery, theoretical and experimental aerodynamics, flight mechanics, aerospace structures, satellite engineering, atmospheric physics and space instrumentation.
  • Work independently.
  • Present/defend scientific or technical results orally, using codes and means of communication appropriate to the audience and the context of the communication.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

Good knowledge of general physics and its mathematical tools.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

Mainly face-to-face, powerpoint presentations.
A recorded version (podcasts MP4) of all lectures is available on Vimeo (links provided).

Recommended or required readings

Printed course notes (facultative) are available in french only.
Updated Powepoint presentations may be downloaded from the eCampus website.

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

oral exam

Additional information:

The exams are mainly meant to test the ability of the students to understand the physics behind the equations.These exams also appraise the overall knowledge of the course and the ability to link the different chapters.

Oral exam on the different lessons. A list of questions will be distributed before the exams.

In case of remote oral examination, use of MS Teams or Skype (backup solution).

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

It is highly recommended to attend the face-to-face classes.

There may be some slight differences between the actual face-to-face lessons and the corresponding videos.


Prof Denis Grodent d.grodent@uliege.be
Laboratory for Planeatary and Atmospheric Physics
Space sciences, Technologies and Astrophysics Research (STAR) Institute

Universite´ de Lie`ge
Institut d'Astrophysique et de Ge´ophysique Quartier AGORA (B5c)
Alle´e du Six Aou^t, 19C
B-4000 Lie`ge, Belgium

phone: +32 4 366 9773

Office: B5c (Astrophysique et Géophysique) - 0/5

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