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New methods for calculating the oceans role in absorbing key greenhouse gases. PhD in Renewable Energy (NERC GW4 + DTP)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, January 06, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Lead Supervisor
Dr Ian Ashton, Department of Engineering, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter

Additional Supervisors
Dr Tom Bell, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Dr Mingxi Yang, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Location: University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). The GW4+ DTP consists of the GW4 Alliance of research-intensive universities: the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus five unique and prestigious Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The partnership aims to provide a broad training in the Earth, Environmental and Life sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in scientific research, business, technology and policy-making. For further details about the programme please see

For eligible successful applicants, the studentships comprises:

- An stipend for 3.5 years (currently £15,009 p.a. for 2019/20) in line with UK Research and Innovation rates
- Payment of university tuition fees;
- A research budget of £11,000 for an international conference, lab, field and research expenses;
- A training budget of £3,250 for specialist training courses and expenses.
- Travel and accommodation is covered for all compulsory DTP cohort events.
- No course fees for courses run by the DTP

We are currently advertising projects for a total of 10 studentships at the University of Exeter

Project Background

The oceans absorb approximately one quarter of anthropogenic CO2 and its exchange between the ocean and atmosphere is one of the key controls on the rate of climate change. Meanwhile, the continual uptake of CO2 causes ocean acidification, one of the key global threats to marine ecosystem health. Recent advances have enabled us to estimate CO2 ocean-atmosphere exchange from space. International initiatives such as the Surface Ocean CO2 ATlas (SOCAT) routinely collect, quality control and collate over a million in situ CO2 observations each year. Rapid developments in satellite monitoring, such as the Copernicus Sentinel satellites, provide state-of-the-art instruments for measuring global surface ocean conditions. In combination, these unlock new potential for more sophisticated methods to estimate gas exchange. The CO2 flux calculation method has an important impact on global estimates of oceanic CO2 uptake, where more accurate results will be highly valuable to global climate predictions.

Project Aims and Methods

This project will use ship-board equipment to measure air/sea CO2 fluxes, with a particular focus on the Polar Regions. Measurements will be taken using cutting-edge instrumentation on a polar research cruise and the study will compare these observations with CO2 flux estimates that use in situ and satellite observations of surface ocean conditions to evaluate and improve flux estimates in polar and global regions.

This project will use these results as part of the development of FluxEngine, an open source toolbox designed to exploit earth observation data for estimating air-sea gas exchange. FluxEngine is ideally suited to incorporating and analysing new data sets and methodologies. The student will incorporate the outcomes from the field-studies into FluxEngine, to provide the community with updated methods and more accurate global estimates of air-sea CO2 flux.

The student will join an on-going, successful collaborative team based at PML and University of Exeter. After conducting a literature review and uncertainty analysis, they will determine the specific focus of the project and the methods that they will use. Their efforts will play an important role in the development of the FluxEngine toolbox. Results will inform ongoing research and influence in-situ field campaigns, contributing directly to global climate science.

Funding Notes

NERC GW4+ funded studentship available for September 2020 entry. For eligible students, the studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,009 per annum for 2019-20.


References / Background reading list

Holding, T., Ashton, I. et al. (2019), The FluxEngine air-sea gas flux toolbox: simplified interface and extensions for in situ analyses and multiple sparingly soluble gases, Ocean Science Discussions,

Bakker, D.C. Eet al. (2016), A multi-decade record of high-quality fCO2 data in version 3 of the Surface Ocean CO2 Atlas (SOCAT), Earth Systems Science Data, 8(2), doi:10.5194/essd-8-383-2016, 2016.

Bell, T.G. et al., (2017) Estimation of bubble-mediated air--sea gas exchange from concurrent DMS and CO2 transfer velocities at intermediate--high wind speeds, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 14,

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