Atmospheric Sciences

Our research in atmospheric composition, including remote sensing and modelling of atmospheric processes from local to global scale, is conducted in an Earth system or “sustainable atmosphere” framework

Our research focusses on atmospheric composition, air quality and climate, and involves using laboratory, field and modelling techniques to investigate atmospheric processes from plant leaf scale up to the global scale. We use highly-tuned analytical instruments in laboratory experiments and in field campaigns (including on-board research aircraft) to observe and understand the processes controlling atmospheric emissions and chemistry. We develop and use numerical models of the atmosphere to explore chemical and dynamical processes, to test scientific understanding and to give a predictive dimension to our work. Our research delivers benefits by contributing to better air quality policy, to improved understanding of land/atmosphere interactions, and to new options to mitigate climate change.

Lab Measurements

We have excellent facilities for the measurement of the concentrations of volatile organic compounds, including GC-FID, GC-MS (both with thermal desorption) and proton transfer reaction - mass spectrometry (two Ionicon instruments). We have controlled environment facilities for the growth of plants and for exposing plants to pollutants. Currently we focus on the emissions of volatile organic compounds produced by vegetation, understanding their role in climate/land/atmosphere feedbacks, particularly those involved in surface energy balance and tropospheric chemistry.

Field Measurements

We deploy instruments at field sites during observation campaigns to measure concentrations and surface-atmosphere fluxes of volatile organic compounds from natural ecosystems. We coordinated the OP3 project based at the Bukit Atur Global Atmosphere Watch Station in Sabah, Malaysia, during spring and summer 2008.  We recently coordinated eddy covariance measurements over central London to measure anthropogenic emissions over the city.

Modelling

We use and develop numerical models of global atmospheric composition and climate, including the FRSGC/UCI chemistry-transport model, the NCAR Community Earth System Model and the UKCA chemistry-climate model. We apply the MEGAN model of biogenic VOC emissions in these frameworks, and are contributing to the development of the UK land surface model, JULES, and the UK Earth System Model. We also use a range of smaller-scale process models to explore atmospheric oxidation processes and the chemical processing of pollutants in urban environments.