Scientists launch new sensor project to map UK emissions

British researchers are taking to the air and sea as part of a new project to improve data on UK greenhouse gas emissions.

A team led by Edinburgh University will combine satellite data with information gathered from across the UK in a research aircaft equipped with sensors to measure carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the air.

The scientists will also take samples from sensors on a North Sea ferry and from a series of towers located around the country in order to measure gases from various sources including industry, landfills and agriculture.

Tracking the movement of the gases will also help the researchers improve their understanding of the impact of emissions on climate change.

A group from Leicester University is leading the work on satellite-based remote sensing of greenhouse gases and will deploy a new multi-gas sensor in the UK in conjunction with more traditional sensors.

Leicester team leader Dr Hartmut Boesch said in a statement: ‘Satellite will play a key role for verification of national emissions and this project provides us with a great opportunity to develop such methods and to find out how much we can already learn from existing satellites.’

Results from the four-year survey will be coupled with observations from European, US and Japanese satellites of greenhouse gas movements. This will give details of UK emissions to the atmosphere in a global context, taking account of seasonal changes such as emissions linked to agriculture.

Air sampling at the BT Tower in London and observations at a tower to be built in south-east England, will also enable the first long-term study of greenhouse gas emissions from the capital.

The study is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and involves the Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Leicester and Manchester universities, the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Met Office and the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

Project leader Prof Paul Palmer from Edinburgh University said: ‘This will deliver robust greenhouse gas emissions estimates from the UK and the world, by bringing together comprehensive data and talented scientists who can make sense of it – this should help track progress towards tackling climate change.’