UK research consortium to expand GHG measurement capability

carbon measurement

A UK research consortium led by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has announced the launch of its Greenhouse ‘Gas Emissions Measurement and Modelling Advancement’ (GEMMA) programme to develop a national emissions measurement dashboard for the UK.

The NPL, Met Office, National Centre for Earth Observation, National Centre for Atmospheric Science, the University of Bristol and others, will work together to create a single integrated network to monitor all sources and sinks of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the UK.

Achieving UK GHG emission reduction targets and supporting global efforts to limit climate temperature rise is a highly complex challenge. Known and recognised sources and sinks are currently accounted for in UK net emissions. However, Earth’s climate responds to all contributions, whether known or not, which is why accurate ongoing measurement of GHG emissions in the UK is crucial – firstly, to identify their sources of origin and then to mitigate and reduce them.

GEMMA will cement a ‘top-down’ systems approach to further complement the detail of traditional ‘bottom-up’ inventories and provide the best available UK net emissions information.

Over the next two years, the team will research, develop and demonstrate a system which will allow the UK to measure and assess changes in atmospheric GHGs on a monthly basis. The investment in new capability will bolster efforts to improve national GHG data, which provide powerful and timely insight into the UK’s net zero transition.

“Climate change is one of the biggest societal challenges of our time and the UK led the world in declaring a net zero target by 2050. The scale and complexity of net zero demands the best available information and the GEMMA programme aims is to provide the big picture, integrated view that is necessary to enable and assure that UK investment delivers,” Richard Barker, head of environment, NPL said.

The GEMMA programme aims to use the latest developments in atmospheric measurements and modelling to determine the contributions of the different GHG sources and sinks to the overall UK inventory and how these change with time,” added Tom Gardiner, principal research scientist. “It will be delivered through a unique collaboration that brings together key expertise from the academic and public sector research community, building on the strong UK capabilities in GHG measurement and inventory verification. The output from the two-year project will deliver a blueprint for a long-term framework to provide a detailed, measurement-based assessment of the UK’s progress towards delivering Net-Zero.”

The measurement system will include six existing tall tower sites, plus one site currently under construction and one entirely new site. The tall tower measurements will be augmented by a network of remote sensing instruments that measure the total amount of gases in the atmosphere above them.

The need for additional sites, and assessment of locations for these, will be conducted during the programme. Many of the current tall tower sites are being upgraded with enhanced measurement capability to standardise the output. Data from the sites will be processed along with meteorological data, further supported by improvements in modelling capability, to produce measured UK emissions rates. The intention is to make this available online as data and via a viewer.

The control and management of the current sites and data is spread across a number of organisations. Part of the work being undertaken is to standardise and streamline the data collection, processing, storage, dissemination and quality assurance tools and processes. It is intended that the data from the operational system will be made available as per the UK GHG Inventory, so will be accessible online by Government for policy development and realisation as well as academic organisations and the general public.

NERC is investing in the Greenhouse Gas Measurement and Modelling Advancement Programme through partners NPL, NCAS, NCEO, University of Bristol and the Met Office to quickly establish UK science capability as critical infrastructure in a systems approach to net-zero. The total programme budget is £12 million, which is funded as part of the UK Research and Innovation strategic theme ‘Building a Green Future’ and the Natural Environment Research Council, plus in-kind contributions from NPL and Met Office.

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