Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Physics of Planetary Atmospheres
Academic Year
Semester 2
Reading List
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Coursework Assignments  25%
Semester Assessment Presentation  5%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   Exam  70%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Resit Exam  resit exam  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Critically review the basic processes that determine the structure, composition, and dynamics of atmospheric layers.

Utilise the fundamental laws of fluid statics and fluid dynamics to construct atmospheric models.

Discuss the factors governing atmospheric production and loss mechanisms.

Explain the physics behind remote and in-situ atmospheric observational techniques.

Assess stellar effects on planetary space environments.

Brief description

The module gives and overview of planetary atmospheric science. It provides the student with the basic techniques in fluid dynamics and applies these to explain the composition, structure and behaviour of planetary neutral atmospheres. Approaches and constraints in modelling planetary atmospheres are also discussed. The module also examines the physics of the ionised atmosphere and the interaction with the planetary and interplanetary magnetic fields.


The aim of the module is to introduce the underlying physics of processes that determine the composition, structure, and dynamics of neutral and ionised atmospheric layers and their interaction with planetary and interplanetary magnetic fields.


Structure, composition, and dynamics of planetary atmospheres
Modelling fundamental properties of planetary atmospheres in hydrostatic equilibrium
Ionisation production and loss mechanisms
Observational techniques
Interactions between neutral atmospheres, ionospheres, magnetospheres and interplanetary medium

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Co-ordinating with others Students are encouraged to work on weekly assignment questions in small groups, and they can also preper for and give their presentation in pairs.
Creative Problem Solving All the assignments are problem-based.
Critical and analytical thinking Critical and analytical thinking are key skills in physics (for example, comparing model results to observational data) and will be tested via continuous assessment during the semester and in formal examination at the end of the module.
Digital capability Students are required to research topics within the module via the internet. The weekly assignments are online.
Professional communication Assignments, including oral presentations, are designed to encourage self-directed learning and improve performance and professional communication.
Subject Specific Skills Discussions of planetary atmospheric science will provide background for techniques used in the field, such as data analysis and modelling.


This module is at CQFW Level 6