Massive open online course on monitoring atmospheric composition

Mark Parrington


The ECMWF-run Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) is joining forces with the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) to produce a free online course that will help the public to better understand the chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Starting in the week beginning 22 October, anyone who is interested in the topic will be able to participate in the massive open online course (MOOC), which is being developed by the London-based media company Imperative Space. The Monitoring Atmospheric Composition MOOC will run for five weeks and will feature several hours of online learning per week through educational videos, interviews with experts in the field of atmospheric science, knowledge-based quizzes and interactive content. The author (CAMS ECMWF) and Rosemary Munro (EUMETSAT) are the lead educators on the course, which will be presented by physicist and BBC broadcaster Helen Czerski from University College London.

At the end of each week, one of the lead educators will address questions that are posted on the MOOC forum, relating to the subject matter for that week. A short video addressing some of the more interesting questions will be filmed and put on the MOOC platform.

The weekly topics will focus on ‘Earth’s atmosphere and the challenges we face’ (Week 1); ‘pollution, air quality and health’ (Week 2); ‘large-scale changes in ozone and greenhouse gases’ (Week 3); ‘long-range transport of air pollutants’ (Week 4); and ‘policies to maintain our life-support system in the future’ (Week 5). ECMWF experts appearing in the videos include Vincent-Henri Peuch, Head of CAMS; Richard Engelen, Deputy Head of CAMS; CAMS scientists Melanie Ades, Anna Agusti-Panareda and Johannes Flemming; and ECMWF service shift manager Antonio Mariano.

Other institutions involved in the filming of interviews include the University of Leicester, King's College London, Météo-France, the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the University of Bremen, the Finnish Meteorological Institute and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The aim of the course is to provide information and educational materials that are easily accessible to people so they can understand the air that we breathe and how we monitor it. The material should be of interest to a broad audience, from high-school pupils, teachers and undergraduates to interested professionals and anyone interested in learning about atmospheric composition.

Monitoring Atmospheric Composition will be the second MOOC arranged between EUMETSAT and Copernicus, the EU’s Earth observation programme. In 2016, more than 5,000 people participated in the first open online course on monitoring the oceans from space.

MOOC interview. Helen Czerski (left) interviewed Melanie Ades about the red skies over western Europe associated with ex-hurricane Ophelia in October 2017.