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Diagnosing the Urban Carbon Cycle with Earth Observation (CENTA2-PHYS1-BOES)

Project Description

Reducing carbon emissions to prevent damaging climate change is one of the grand challenges of our time. Due to the Paris agreement most countries have now committed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. However, there are still no reliable means of observing carbon emissions on the appropriate space and time scales required to underpin such mitigation policies.
To address this challenge, a main focus will have to be on urban areas which cover only a small fraction of the land but are responsible for about 70% of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions. Cities are also the focal point of many political decisions on mitigation with often very ambitious goals themselves. However, our understanding of carbon budget of cities is poor, as historically carbon cycle studies have focused on ‘natural’ ecosystems. The urban carbon budget is quickly becoming a new frontier in carbon cycle science with the emerging of megacity carbon projects e.g. in Los Angeles.

In this project, we will use a combination of modelling and new observations to evaluate the carbon budget of cities, focusing initially on London, to gain new scientific insights into man-made emissions from cities and the role of the urban biosphere that sequesters CO2, which is important for ‘green’ megacities such as London. CO2 shares many emission sources with major air pollutants (NO2, particles), so that we need to understand the relationship between carbon and air quality as mitigation policies will impact both. This will be especially relevant for megacities in developing countries and we will also study megacities in India, e.g. Delhi, which has some of the largest air quality levels globally.

This studentship will contribute to the high-profile science area of urban carbon with high public interest, relevance to policy makers. The student will work with the teams of current and upcoming CO2 satellite missions including the French/UK MicroCarb mission and the ESA CO2M, which will be the first mission to measure at the same time CO2, NO2 and aerosols.

Further Reading:

Journal: Duren, R.M and C.E.Miller (2012), Measuring the Carbon Emissions of Megacities, Nature Climate Change 2, 560–562, doi:10.1038/nclimate1629

Copernicus CO2 report:

Entry Requirements:

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.

Available for UK and EU applicants only.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility:

How to Apply:

Please follow refer to the How to Apply section at and use the Physics Apply button to submit your PhD application.

Upload your CENTA Studentship Form in the proposal section of the application form.

In the funding section of the application please indicate you wish to be considered for NERC CENTA Studentship.

Under the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisor and project title/project code you want to apply for.

Funding Notes

This project is one of a number of fully funded studentships available to the best UK and EU candidates available as part of the NERC DTP CENTA consortium.

For more details of the CENTA consortium please see the CENTA website: View Website.

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility: View Website

The studentship includes a 3.5 year tuition fee waiver at UK/EU rates

An annual tax free stipend (For 2019/20 this is currently £15,009)

Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £8,000.

Related Subjects

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