Towards near real-time quantification of fossil fuel emissions

(PICKERS_UENV24ARIES) CASE studentship with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)

Towards near real-time quantification of fossil fuel emissions

(PICKERS_UENV24ARIES) CASE studentship with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)

Project Description


Dr Penelope Pickers, University of East Anglia – Contact me

Dr Dorothee Bakker, University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Science

Dr Matt Jones, University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Science and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Scientific Background

The 2020s are critical years 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, but our ability to evaluate fossil fuel CO2 (ffCO2) emissions is currently limited (1).

‘Bottom-up’ emissions estimates, based on inventory-style accounting and mobile tracking data, can differ significantly from each other at policy-relevant scales, while ‘top-down’ estimates, based on atmospheric measurements and modelling, have been 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 using a novel ‘top-down’ approach, based on synchronous changes in atmospheric CO2 and oxygen (O2) measurements. Using new data products of fossil fuel O2 and CO2 emission ratios and new measurements from the Weybourne Atmospheric Observatory ( and the Heathfield Tall Tower (UK), you will:

–           Disentangle atmospheric signals into anthropogenic and natural processes (2) to quantify ffCO2;
–           Investigate O2 and CO2 fossil fuel emissions ratios at sub-country scales for the UK (3);
–           Work towards near real-time top-down ffCO2 emissions reporting for the UK;
–           Use your new ffCO2 knowledge to re-evaluate global land and ocean carbon sink partitioning and investigate global carbon budget imbalances (4, 5).


We will provide extensive 1-2-1 training in:

–           High-precision atmospheric O2 and CO2 measurements;
–           Programming (e.g., R, Python), to conduct advanced atmospheric time-series analyses and machine learning;
–           Skills for presenting research at scientific conferences and writing peer-reviewed papers.

An optional 3-6 month stay in Wellington, New Zealand, working with state-of-the-art CarbonWatch-NZ data (, and attendance at summer schools, such as the National Centre for Atmospheric Science summer school (, will provide additional research, training, and networking opportunities.

Person Specification

We seek an enthusiastic team player with strong scientific interests, self-motivation and numerical skills. You will have at least a 2.1 honours BSc degree in environmental sciences, physics, chemistry, natural sciences, engineering or equivalent, and a strong interest in the carbon cycle and climate change.


  • 1 Le Quéré, C., Jackson, R. B., Jones, M. W., Smith, A., Abernethy, S., Andrew, R. M., De-Gol, A., Willis, D., Shan, Y., Canadell, J. G., Friedlingstein, P., Creutzig, F. & Peters, G. (2020) Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement, Nature Climate Change. 10, 7, p. 647–653 7 p.doi: 10.1038/s41558-020-0797-x
  • 2 Pickers, P. A., Manning, A.C., Le Quéré, C., Forster, G.L., Luijkx, I.T., Gerbig, C., Fleming, L.S. and Sturges, W.T. (2022) Novel quantification of regional fossil fuel CO2 reductions during COVID-19 lockdowns using atmospheric oxygen measurements, Science Advances. 8, 16, abl9250.Pickers, P. A., Manning, A.C., Le Quéré, C., Forster, G.L., Luijkx, I.T., Gerbig, C., Fleming, L.S. and Sturges, W.T. (2022) Novel quantification of regional fossil fuel CO2 reductions during COVID-19 lockdowns using atmospheric oxygen measurements, Science Advances. 8, 16, abl9250.
  • 3 Jones, M. W., Andrew, R. M., Peters, G. P., Janssens-Maenhout, G., De-Gol, A. J., Ciais, P., Patra, P. K., Chevallier, F. & Le Quéré, C. (2021) Gridded fossil CO2 emissions and related O2 combustion consistent with national inventories 1959-2018, Scientific Data. 8, 2. doi: 10.1038/s41597-020-00779-6
  • 4 Friedlingstein, P., O'Sullivan, M., Jones, M. W., Andrew, R. M., Gregor, L., Hauck, J., Le Quéré, C., Peters, G. P., Peters, W., Pongratz, J., Sitch, S., Canadell, J. G., Ciais, P., Jackson, R. B., Alin, S. R., Anthoni, P., Bates, N. R., Becker, M., Bellouin, N., Bopp, L., Chau, T. T. T., Chevallier, F., Chini, L. P., Cronin, M., Currie, K. I., Decharme, B., Djeutchouang, L. M., Dou, X., Evans, W., Feely, R. A., Feng, L., Gasser, T., Gilfillan, D., Gkritzalis, T., Grassi, G., Gregor, L., Gruber, N., Gürses, O., Harris, I., Houghton, R. A., Hurtt, G. C., Iida, Y., Ilyina, T., Luijkx, I. T., Jain, A., Jones, S. D., Kato, E., Kennedy, D., Goldewijk, K. K., Knauer, J., Korsbakken, J. I., Körtzinger, A., Landschützer, P., Lauvset, S. K., Lefèvre, N., Lienert, S., Liu, J., Marland, G., McGuire, P.C., Melton, J. R., Munro, D. R., Nabel, J. E. M. S., Nakaoka, S. I., Niwa, Y., Ono, T., Pierrot, D., Poulter, B., Rehder, G., Resplandy, L., Robertson, E., Rödenbeck, C., Rosan, T. M., Schwinger, J., Schwingshackl, C., Séférian, R., Sutton, A. J., Sweeney, C., Tanhua, T., Tans, P. P., Tian, H., Tilbrook, B., Tubiello, F., van der Werf, G. R., Vuichard, N., Wada, C., Wanninkhof, R., Watson, A. J., Willis, D., Wiltshire, A. J., Yuan, W., Yue, C., Yue, X., Zaehle, S., and J. Zeng (2022) Global Carbon Budget 2022. Earth System Science Data 14, 4811–4900, 2022. doi: 10.5194/essd-14-4811-2022
  • 5 Legge, O., Johnson, M., Hicks, N., Jickells, T., Diesing, M., Aldridge, J., Andrews, J., Artioli, Y., Bakker, D. C. E., Burrows, M. T., Carr, N., Cripps, G., Felgate, S., Fernand, L., Greenwood, N., Hartman, S., Kitidis, V., Kröger, S., Lessin, G., Mahaffey, C., Mayor, D. J., Ruth Parker, R., Queirós, A. M., Shutler, J. D., Silva, T., Stahl, H., Tinker, J., Underwood, G. J. C., Van der Molen, J., Wakelin, S., Weston, K., Williamson, P. (2020) Carbon on the Northwest European Shelf: Contemporary Budget and Future Influences. Frontiers in Marine Science, 7: 143, 23 pp. doi:10.3389/fmars.2020.00143.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2024. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 10th January 2024.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£18,622 p.a. for 2023/24) and research funding. International applicants are eligible for fully-funded ARIES studentships including fees. Please note however that ARIES funding does not cover additional costs associated with relocation to, and living in, the UK. We expect to award between 4 and 6 studentships to international candidates in 2024.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences, on top of all Research Costs associated with the project. 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.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding.
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship follow the instructions at the bottom of the page or click the 'apply now' link.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.
  • ARIES funding is subject to UKRI terms and conditions. Postgraduate Researchers are expected to live within reasonable distance of their host organisation for the duration of their studentship. See for more information

Applications open

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