School Research


The Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry

Greenhouse gases.....

Amounts of UV reaching the Earth's surface ....

Issues that concern us all, but to the scientists at the Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry - it’s personal !!

Atmospheric Group

  What are you researching ?

  What goes up into the atmosphere, and what happens to it when it gets there. For example, we measure “greenhouse gases” (e.g. carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane), working out where they are released from, how much is released, and when.  We also look at solar radiation (sunlight), looking at issues like the amount of UV reaching the earth.  We are not so involved in urban air quality.  

in the lab


Why is it important?

Issues involving greenhouse gases and climate change are in the news headlines. Changes in the atmosphere can have a profound impact on all life. This is also true for air quality, especially in our major cities. To deal with these problems in a sensible way involves understanding what is actually happening to the chemicals and gases in the atmosphere.

What are your latest achievements?

We have looked at the emissions from bushfires in the Illawarra region, quantifying the amount of several (toxic) gases that are released. We have also developed ways to measure the amount of greenhouse gases being released from cows/ sheep/ pasture, and ways to identify what causes them to be released.      

Who funds your work?

  The majority of the funds come from federal government sources, such as the Australian Research Council and the Greenhouse Office. By collaborating with people overseas we also work on projects funded by NASA.      

Who do you collaborate with?

  CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne University, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (US), NASA (Langley), Caltech, Department of Primary Industry (Vic), Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines, The Australian National University, University of Tokyo, University of Bremen, University of Toronto, Institute fur Meteorologie und Klima Forschung (Germany)      

What's the most memorable event to happen over the last three years?

Sampling air within the Jenolan Caves was a little weird. The instrument ran continuously for 2 weeks within the cave, but had to be checked regularly, often after hours when the tourists had left. Walking through a dark cave by yourself makes those ghost stories seem a little more real. The results were really interesting, as they showed how the cave “breathed”, drawing air from various places.

in the cave



Being involved last January in a large international campaign measuring the atmosphere and clouds in Darwin was inspiring. There were lots of people from all over the world trying to get their equipment working at the same time and there were some really weird planes being used for sampling.  

What's next?

Understanding how the atmosphere is changing, and how this is going to affect things like climate.      

Contact details

David Griffith
Stephen Wilson

atmospheric group


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