Gaseous ammonia (NH3) is the most abundant alkaline gas in the atmosphere. In addition, it is a major component of total reactive nitrogen. The largest source of NH3 emissions is agriculture, including animal husbandry and NH3-based fertilizer applications. Other sources of NH3 include industrial processes, vehicular emissions and volatilization from soils and oceans. Recent studies have indicated that NH3 emissions have been increasing over the last few decades on a global scale. This is a concern because NH3 plays a significant role in the formation of atmospheric particulate matter, visibility degradation and atmospheric deposition of nitrogen to sensitive ecosystems. Thus, the increase in NH3 emissions negatively influences environmental and public health as well as climate change. For these reasons, it is important to have a clear understanding of the sources, deposition and atmospheric behaviour of NH3. Over the last two decades, a number of research papers have addressed pertinent issues related to NH3 emissions into the atmosphere at global, regional and local scales. This review article integrates the knowledge available on atmospheric NH3 from the literature in a systematic manner, describes the environmental implications of unabated NH3 emissions and provides a scientific basis for developing effective control strategies for NH3. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.