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PhD Studentship: Towards Near Real-time Quantification of Fossil Fuel Emissions

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Science

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £15,609 p.a. plus Research Funding, Graduate Training, and £2,500 for external training, travel and conferences
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 29th October 2021
Closes: 12th January 2022
Reference: BAKKER_UENV22ARIES

Scientific Background 

The 2020s is a critical decade for curbing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel use to slow the pace of climate change. Successful implementation of the Paris agreement relies on countries’ emissions being accurately known and readily available in near real-time.

Our ability to evaluate fossil fuel CO2 (ffCO2) emissions and to monitor the effectiveness of emissions reduction policies is currently limited (1). ‘Bottom-up’ emissions estimates, based on inventory-style accounting and mobile tracking data, can differ significantly, while ‘top-down’ estimates, based on atmospheric measurements and modelling, are hampered by large natural fluxes of CO2 between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere (2). 

Research Methodology 

In this PhD studentship, you will quantify ffCO2 in near-real time by applying a novel method that accounts for synchronous changes in atmospheric CO2 and oxygen (O2). Using observations of how fossil fuel combustion and natural ecosystem processes consume and emit O2 and CO2, you will disentangle the atmospheric signals of anthropogenic and natural processes (2). Working with atmospheric O2 data from the Weybourne Atmospheric Observatory (https://weybourne.uea.ac.uk/) and Heathfield Tall Tower (UK), and the Heidelberg Integrated Carbon Observation System site (https://www.icos-cal.eu/crl) (Germany), you will: 

  • Quantify ffCO2 in urban and rural settings;
  • Refine O2 and CO2 ratios in emissions database products (3);
  • Work towards near real-time top-down ffCO2 emissions reporting for the UK;
  • Re-evaluate land and ocean carbon sink partitioning for north-western Europe and investigate regional and global carbon budget imbalances (4, 5).

Training

  • Expertise in atmospheric O2 and CO2 measurement;
  • Programming (R, Python), data analysis and machine learning;
  • 3-6 month stay in Wellington, New Zealand, working with CarbonWatch-NZ datasets (https://niwa.co.nz/climate/research-projects/carbon-watch-nz);
  • Attendance at summer schools, such as the National Centre for Atmospheric Science summer school (https://ncas.ac.uk/study-with-us/atmospheric-measurement-summer-school);
  • Presentations at scientific conferences and peer-reviewed publications. 

Person Specification 

We seek an enthusiastic team player with strong scientific interests, self-motivation and numerical skills. You will have a BSc degree in environmental sciences, physics, chemistry, natural sciences, engineering or equivalent. A strong interest in the carbon cycle and climate change is more important than prior knowledge. 

Primary Supervisor: Dr Dorothee Bakker

Start Date: 1 October 2022

For more information on this project, please visit www.uea.ac.uk

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