Project Highlights:


  • Develop and apply novel CO2 satellite retrieval methods to monitor global CO2 in support of carbon emission reduction policies
  • Use satellite observations to constrain and evaluate carbon fluxes and models
  • Work with cutting-edge satellite remote sensing methods

Mitigating or slowing down global warming is one of the primary challenges humankind faces in the 21st century. Globally we are already approaching a warming mark of 1°C and we are seeing effects, such as droughts, reduced snowpack, and increased forest fires. This calls for decisive action. In the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris, participants agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent an increase of more than 1.5°C in global surface temperature. European countries have positioned themselves at the forefront of climate change mitigation through a number of ambitious policies and programs. However, the development of climate change mitigation policies is hampered by critical knowledge gaps in our understanding the global carbon cycle, its sources and sinks including anthropogenic emissions and the interplay of the carbon cycle processes with climate change.

More and better observations are needed if we want to advance our quantitative understanding of the carbon exchange between the surface and the atmosphere. Recent advances in space-based remote sensing methods provide us now with opportunities to augment the coarse spatial and temporal resolution and coverage of ground-based networks. Pioneering space-based missions, such as the Japanese GOSAT and NASA’s OCO-2 mission, have impressively demonstrated the power of satellites to provide a “top-down” view on carbon sources and sinks. More advanced CO2 satellite missions which focus on natural as well as of anthropogenic carbon fluxes are now developed by the international space agencies. One of the most ambitious programs is the European Copernicus Evolution for anthropogenic CO2 emission monitoring developed to support the Paris agreement.

The success of these future programs will critically depend if we are able to extend satellite CO2 measurements towards major emissions hotspots such as megacities and to key regions such as the Tropics and Subtropics which host many emerging economies. This will only be possible if we can bring together remote sensing methods used for CO2 with those for atmospheric aerosols and clouds. This will represent a major advancement in CO2 remote sensing leading to more reliable information on carbon surface flux including major emission hotspots.


Figure 1: CO2 observations (per season) from the GOSAT satellite derived by University of Leicester for the ESA Climate Change Initiative and Copernicus Climate Change Service. In this project, we will use GOSAT-2, the successor to the successful GOSAT mission.


In this project, we will take advantage of a new, recently launched satellite (GOSAT-2) to tackle one of the eminent limitations of satellite remote sensing to reliably observe CO2 in regions of high pollution (megacities) or frequent cloud coverage (tropics). This will be possible as GOSAT-2

Besides a powerful instrument for CO2, GOSAT-2 also features a state-of-the-art aerosol imager so that a detailed characterisation of aerosols (and clouds) is possible which can then inform the CO2 retrieval.

The studentship will build on the huge expertise in CO2 retrieval methods of the EOS group and benefit from expert knowledge in aerosols of partner University of Lille. Using a combined aerosol/CO2 approach, we will map atmospheric CO2 from GOSAT-2 which will be used to test current model calculations (with partner University of Edinburgh) and to infer carbon surface flux information focussing on major emission regions.

Training and Skills

The student will be part of the EOS group which provides an exciting cross-discipline 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 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 incl visit to University of Lille. Adapt the University of Leicester CO2 retrieval to GOSAT-2. Setup GRASP software for aerosol retrievals. Attend summer school.

Year 2: Combine aerosol and CO2 retrieval methods and apply to GOSAT-2 to generate global CO2 datasets. Conduct characterisation of the CO2 data and model comparisons. Presentation at international conference.

Year 3: Use of satellite CO2 data to constrain carbon surface fluxes in collaboration with University of Edinburgh. Assessment of surface flux information against inventory and model data. Presentation at international conference.

Partners and collaboration (including CASE)

The studentship team will include two partners which will provide training and expertise to the benefit of the student. University of Lille are world leading in aerosol remote sensing and they have authored the grasp aerosol retrieval suite. University of Edinburgh (National Centre for Earth Observation) are experts in atmospheric modelling and surface flux inversions and they will support the student in the interpretation of the global CO2 datasets. The student will have opportunities to visit both partners.

Further Details

It is strongly 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