Detection of methane emission sources from global satellite observations (16/10)

Company: Remote Sensing Group, RAL Space

Location: STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Harwell Oxford, Didcot, Oxfordshire, OX11 0QX. Supervised by Dr. Diane Knappett / Dr. Richard Siddans


RAL Space at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) is part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council. RAL Space works alongside the UK Space Agency (UKSA) who co-ordinate UK civil space activities and has around 200 staff. RAL Space provides world-leading research and technology development, space test facilities, instrument and mission design, and studies of science and technology requirements for new missions. The RAL Remote Sensing Group develops state-of-the-art schemes to retrieve global distributions of atmospheric constituents from satellite observations. Multi-year data sets on methane, ozone, aerosol and clouds are currently being produced for climate research and other applications.


Methane is one of the most important contributors to global warming and the link between climate change and methane emissions is one of the most important feedbacks in the Earth-atmosphere system. The global distribution of tropospheric methane is determined by surface sources and transport by atmospheric winds. This distribution can be retrieved on a daily basis from the signature of methane in satellite observed IR spectra. From these retrievals, the geographical and temporal variability of methane emission sources (e.g. wetlands, rice production and other agriculture, biomass-burning, fossil-fuel production) is evident; analysis of our recently produced eight-year dataset reveals the seasonal cycle, year-to-year variability and underlying upward trend in methane concentrations on a regional basis. In this project, the student will identify methane emission sources from satellite data and analyse these in conjunction with correlative information (e.g. met data, emission inventories and surface measurements).

Student Specification:

The student will have the opportunity to deepen their computer programming skills, learn about satellite sounding of atmospheric composition, and will use and develop tools to visualise and interpret state-of-the-art satellite data on methane. Some experience and skill in IDL, Fortran, C or python coding is expected.

Target courses:

The successful candidate is likely to be in the 3rd/4th year of an undergraduate course in physics/meteorology/environmental science/chemistry. A computer scientist with experience developing software with an interest in environmental applications would also be highly suitable.

The Nitty Gritty:

8-week fixed term contract to be agreed with successful candidate, but should nominally to start around 27 June 2016, with the SpIN student Induction day to be held at Harwell on that date. £1,300 gross pcm.

Closing Date for Applications: 15 April 2016

Applications will be through the online form attaching a CV, before the closing date. They will be checked for eligibility and forwarded to the employer.

Apply for this SpIN opportunity

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