PhD Studentship: Megacity carbon emissions from atmospheric data

University of Bristol - School of Chemistry

The project:

Cities are increasingly setting the agenda on greenhouse gas emissions reduction. A prime example is London, a member of the C40 group (, which has set the ambitious target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2025. For such targets to be credible, a strategy is needed to ensure that the reductions are working. To that end, several megacities around the world are developing atmospheric greenhouse gas evaluation programmes (e.g. The UK has been a leader in national-scale top-down emissions quantification using atmospheric measurements under the UK-wide, Bristol-led, Deriving Emissions Related to Climate Change (DECC) network. A new generation of measurements will now make it possible to evaluate the drivers of emissions trends at the urban scale for our own megacity, London. This project will to use these new data sources to quantify London’s emissions, and integrate estimates into the UK-wide framework. We will aim to develop an approach that can then be rolled out to other major urban areas around the world.

You will use a combination of space- and ground-based observations of CO2, CH4 and other tracers, to develop an urban emissions evaluation strategy, that will focus initially on the South-East of England, with an aim to apply to megacities worldwide. Data sources will include: a) New satellite instruments that measure CH4 and CO2 from space; b) A new low-cost sensor network, developed in collaboration with the University of Cambridge; c) A new air quality and greenhouse gas monitoring station at Heathfield, to the south of London, run by CASE partner NPL; d) High-precision measurements of greenhouse gases and ozone depleting substances from the DECC network. These data will be used to constrain surface fluxes using atmospheric models developed by the Met Office and cutting-edge Bayesian methods. The student will participate in the deployment of new observations, in collaboration with NPL and the University of Cambridge. They will use big-data techniques to combine the wealth of new data sources, and develop new multi-tracer methods to separate natural and anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The new methods will move us toward the evaluation of London’s greenhouse gas inventory at the source-sector level, information that is of vital importance to the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Greater London Authority. It is anticipated that our methodology will be replicated by other major urban areas throughout the world.

This project is a CASE award with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

How to apply:

Please make an online application for this project at Please select Chemistry PhD on the Programme Choice page and enter details of the studentship when prompted in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form. Students are strongly encouraged to contact the primary supervisor prior to applying.

Candidate requirements: 

The project would suit a numerate student with a first degree in physical sciences, mathematics or computing and a desire to develop a range of new skills (primarily modelling, with potential for lab and fieldwork). The project does not require a background in chemistry.

Funding: Funding is through the NERC GW4+ DTP.

Contacts: Primary supervisor Matt Rigby (

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South West England