Towards near real-time quantification of fossil fuel emissions


Towards near real-time quantification of fossil fuel emissions


Project Description


Dr Dorothee Bakker (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia) – Contact me

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

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


Project 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 ( and Heathfield Tall Tower (UK), and the Heidelberg Integrated Carbon Observation System site ( (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).


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.


  • 1) Le Quéré, C., Jackson, R. B., Jones, M., 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. (in review, Sep 2021) Novel quantification of regional fossil fuel CO2 reductions during COVID-19 lockdowns using atmospheric oxygen measurements, Science Advances.
  • 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., Jones, M. W., O’Sullivan, M., Andrew, R. M., Hauck, J., Peters, G. P., Peters, W., Pongratz, J., Sitch, S., Le Quéré, C., Bakker, D. C. E., Canadell, J. G., Ciais, P., Jackson, R., Anthoni, P., Barbero, L., Bastos, A., Bastrikov, V., Becker, M., Bopp, L., Buitenhuis, E., Chandra, N., Chevallier, F., Chini, L. P., Currie, K. I., Feely, R. A., Gehlen, M., Gilfillan, D., Gkritzalis, T., Goll, D. S., Gruber, N., Gutekunst, S., Harris, I., Haverd, V., Houghton, R. A., Hurtt, G., Ilyina, T., Jain, A. K., Joetzjer, E., Kaplan, J. O., Kato, E., Klein Goldewijk, K., Korsbakken, J. I., Landschützer, P., Lauvset, S. K., Lefèvre, N., Lenton, A., Lienert, S., Lombardozzi, D., Marland, G., McGuire, P. C., Melton, J. R., Metzl, N., Munro, D. R., Nabel, J. E. M. S., Nakaoka, S.-I., Neill, C., Omar, A. M., Ono, T., Peregon, A., Pierrot, D., Poulter, B., Rehder, G., Resplandy, L., Robertson, E., Rödenbeck, C., Séférian, R., Schwinger, J., Smith, N., Tans, P. P., Tian, H., Tilbrook, B., Tubiello, F. N., Van der Werf, G. R., Wiltshire, A. J., Zaehle, S. (2019) Global Carbon Budget 2019. Earth System Science Data 11: 1783-1838. doi: 10.5194/essd-11-1783-2019
  • 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 2022. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 12th January 2022.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,609 p.a. for 2021-22) and research funding. International applicants (EU and non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences. 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.
  • 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 click on the “Apply now” link below.
  • 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.

Applications are open

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