What can atmospheric measurements tell us about how the Atlantic Ocean is responding to climate change?


What can atmospheric measurements tell us about how the Atlantic Ocean is responding to climate change?


Project Description


Associate Prof Andrew Manning, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Dr Penelope Pickers, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Prof Paul Palmer, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh

The Project

The oceans are the world’s most important long-term carbon dioxide (CO2) sink and substantially reduce climate change by sucking up vast amounts of fossil fuel CO2 emissions (~9.3 million tonnes CO2 every year). This might not continue: as the planet warms so do the oceans, changing marine biology and ocean circulation, which affects CO2 uptake. In addition, oxygen (O2) outgasses from the ocean as it warms, leading to expansion of oxygen ‘deserts’, which are detrimental to fish stocks. The oceans are also a source of methane (CH4) to the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas much more potent than CO2.

The net CO2 flux from the Atlantic Ocean varies significantly with latitude, with uptake in the north and outgassing in the tropics. Our group has been collecting atmospheric datasets over the Atlantic from the Cap San Lorenzo container ship travelling between Germany and Argentina since 2015 (O2 and CO2) and 2019 (CH4). In this studentship, you will maintain the shipboard equipment (when the ship visits London), and carry out in-depth data analyses. Your work will include a strong atmospheric transport modelling component – working with computer models that simulate atmospheric circulation and combining these simulations with our atmospheric datasets to determine fluxes of CO2, O2 and CH4 between the ocean and atmosphere. Your work will thus shed important insight into the Atlantic Ocean carbon sink, ocean methane sources and ocean deoxygenation.


You will join UEA’s ‘CRAM Group’ of atmospheric measurement experts, and benefit from our partner, Professor Paul Palmer (University of Edinburgh), a world-leading atmospheric transport modelling expert. By the end of the PhD you will have acquired skills and expertise in atmospheric measurement and modelling, leaving you well-placed to develop your career either in academia or industry. Exciting training opportunities exist, including summer schools on atmospheric sciences and transport modelling workshops.

Person Specification

You should have a numerical skills, maths or computer science-based background. Environmental Sciences and carbon cycle knowledge is desirable, but not required – we have excellent classes for you to acquire such knowledge. A strong interest in the environment and climate change is essential. Excellent writing skills are also required.



  • Pickers, P. A., Manning, A. C., Sturges, W. T., Le Quéré, C., Mikaloff Fletcher, S. E., Wilson, P. A., and Etchells, A. J.: In situ measurements of atmospheric O2 and CO2 reveal an unexpected O2 signal over the tropical Atlantic Ocean, Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles, 10.1002/2017GB005631, 2017.
  • Nevison, C. D., Manizza, M., Keeling, R. F., Stephens, B. B., Bent, J. D., Dunne, J., Ilyina, T., Long, M., Resplandy, L., Tjiputra, J., and Yukimoto, S.: Evaluating CMIP5 ocean biogeochemistry and Southern Ocean carbon uptake using atmospheric potential oxygen: Present-day performance and future projection, Geophysical Research Letters, 43, 2077-2085, 10.1002/2015gl067584, 2016.
  • Keeling, R. F., and A. C. Manning, 5.15 - Studies of Recent Changes in Atmospheric O2 Content, in Treatise on Geochemistry (Second Edition), edited by Holland, H. D., and K. K. Turekian, pp. 385-404; doi: 310.1016/B1978-1010-1008-095975-095977.000420-095974, doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-095975-7.00420-4, Elsevier, Oxford, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780080959757004204, 2014.
  • Dimdore-Miles, O. B., Palmer, P. I., and Bruhwiler, L. P.: Detecting changes in Arctic methane emissions: limitations of the inter-polar difference of atmospheric mole fractions, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 17895-17907, 10.5194/acp-18-17895-2018, 2018.
  • Lowry, D., Fisher, R. E., Lanoisellé, M. E., Nisbet, E. G., Dlugokencky, E. J., Manning, A. C., Continuous greenhouse gas monitoring on South Atlantic Islands, ResearchGate article, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241200085_Continuous_Greenhouse_Gas_Monitoring_on_South_Atlantic_Islands

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.
  • Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area (see https://www.aries-dtp.ac.uk/supervisors/additional-funding/).
  • This studentship will start on 1st October 2020, and the closing date for applications is 23:59 on 15th January 2020.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor.
  • Please note that the joint NERC-ESRC ARIES-SeNSS studentship projects have different deadlines and funding arrangements. For full details please visit https://senss-dtp.ac.uk/aries-senss-joint-studentship, or contact SeNSS.dtp@uea.ac.uk.

Studentship Open for Applications

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