Project Highlights:

  • Work with cutting-edge satellite remote sensing and modelling method
  • Develop and apply novel approaches to monitor CO2 emissions in support of carbon mitigation policies
  • Research into the cutting-edge field of urban carbon cycle  

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.

Fossil fuel CO2 emission inventory highlighting the dominant role of cities the global CO2 emission.


In this project, we will apply a cutting-edge model framework to describe the carbon budget of the city of London and to evaluate it against novel satellite observations. We will use CARDAMOM-DALEC (https://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/homes/mwilliam/CARDAMOM.html), a powerful framework to describe the role of vegetation based on satellite data and the WRF-Chem model (https://ruc.noaa.gov/wrf/wrf-chem/) which can describe the atmospheric transport in the urban area for CO2 as well as of air pollutants (NO2, aerosols). The modelling framework will be combined with new satellite observations that target cities to create a carbon budget for London and to critically evaluate carbon emissions of cities. In conjunction with air quality satellites, we will study the correlation between air quality and carbon and we will look towards upcoming missions such as CO2M which measure CO2 and NO2 simultaneously.

Training and Skills

The students will be part of the Leicester Earth Observations Science research group which provides an exciting cross-disciplinary environment. The student will obtain a wide range of skill and expertise in satellite remote sensing, carbon cycle and wider environmental science. Specific training will be provided by the supervisory team and partners with additional training provided via summer school (e.g. ESA summer school), workshops and University training (e.g. computing). The student will also benefit from the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) which provides numerous training opportunities from data visualization to presentation skills. NCEO also provides ample opportunities to interact with researchers and PhD students


Year 1: Training in satellite remote sensing methods and terrestrial carbon modelling with CARMOM-DALEC including visit to NCEO-Edinburgh. Investigate role of vegetation for urban carbon cycle. Attend summer school.

Year 2: Training and setup of WRF-Chem model including visit to IIT-Delhi. Investigate carbon emission inventories against satellite observations. Presentation at international conference.

Year 3: Evaluate the link between CO2 emissions and air quality using the WRF-Chem model and Earth Observations. Study the potential of future missions. Presentation at international conference.

Partners and collaboration (including CASE)

In the studentship, we will work with partners from NCEO-University of Edinburgh and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi in India. NCEO-Edinburgh is a leading group in terrestrial carbon cycle modelling and they have created the CARDAMOM-DALEC model and will provide detailed training. IIT-Delhi is a long-standing collaborator of the EOS group and a leading organisation in India for air quality research. They are experts in WRF-Chem modelling and they will provide training during visits of the student to IIT-Delhi.

Further Details

It is advised that you contact the supervisor Prof. Hartmut Boesch (Hartmut.boesch@le.ac.uk) before applying

For more details about the EOS group, please see https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/physics/research/eos