GREENHOUSE: Generating Regional Emissions Estimates with a Novel Hierarchy of Observations and Upscaled Simulation Experiments

Lead Research Organisation: NERC CEH (Up to 30.11.2019)
Department Name: Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects


The UK is committed to quantifying and managing its emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG, i.e. CO2, CH4, N2O) to reduce the threat of dangerous climate change. Sinks and sources of GHGs vary in space and time across the UK because of the landscape's mosaic of managed and semi-natural ecosystems, and the varying temporal sensitivities of each GHG's emissions to meteorology and management. Understanding spatio-temporal patterns of biogenic GHG emissions will lead to improvements in flux estimates, allow inventories with greater sensitivity to management and climate, and advance the modelling of feedbacks between climate, land use and GHG emissions. Addressing Deliverable C of the NERC Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions and Feedbacks Research Programme, we will use extensive existing UK field data on GHG emissions, supplemented with targeted new measurements at a range of scales, to build accurate GHG inventories and improve the capabilities of two land surface models (LSMs) to estimate GHG emissions.
Our measurements will underpin state-of-the-art temporal and spatial upscaling frameworks. The temporal framework will evaluate diurnal, seasonal and inter-annual variation in emissions of CO2, CH4 and N2O over dominant UK land-covers, resolving management interventions such as ploughing, fertilizing and harvesting, and the effects of weather and climate variability. The spatial framework will evaluate landscape heterogeneity at patch (m), field (ha) and landscape (km2) scales, in two campaigns combining chambers, tower and airborne flux measurements in arable croplands of eastern England, and grazing and forest landscapes of northern Britain.
For modelling, we will update two LSMs, JULES and C-tessel, so that both generate estimates of CO2, CH4 and N2O fluxes from managed landscapes. The models will be updated to include the capabilities to represent changes in land use over time, to represent changes in land management over time (crop sowing, fertilizing, harvesting, ploughing etc), and the capacity to simulate forest rotations. With these changes in place, we will determine parameterisations for dominant UK land-covers and management interventions, using our spatio-temporal data.
The work is organized in five science work-packages (WP).
WP1: Data assembly and preliminary analysis. We will create a database of GHG emissions data and ancillary data for major UK landcovers/landuses in order to calibrate and evaluate the LSMs' capabilities, and generate spatial databases of environmental and management drivers for the models.
WP2. GHG measurement at multiple scales. We deploy advanced technology to generate new information on spatial GHG processes from simultaneous measurement from chamber (<1 m) to landscape (40 km) length scales, and on temporal flux variation from minutes to years.
WP3. Earth observation (EO) to support upscaling. EO data will provide: i) driving data for LSM upscaling, from flux tower to aircraft campaign scales; and ii) spatial data for testing LSM outputs at these larger scales.
WP4 Upscaling GHG processes. Firstly, the two LSMs will be updated to allow the impacts of management activities on GHG emissions to be simulated, with calibration against an array of temporal flux data. Then, we will use the LSMs to model the fluxes of GHGs at larger spatial scales, based on a rigorous understanding of how the nonlinearity of responses and the non-Gaussian distribution of environmental input variables interact, for each GHG, using all available field data at finer scales.
WP5 Application at the regional scale. The LSMs will upscale GHG emissions for both campaign regions (E. England, N. Britain) using a 1-km2 resolution simulations with a focus on the airborne campaign periods of 4 weeks. We will determine how regional upscaling error can be reduced with intensive spatial soil and land management data.

Planned Impact

To exchange knowledge with policy makers and land managers, we will host a workshop to explain the novel science outputs relating GHG emissions to managed landscapes, with attendees from a range of government departments, governmental organisations, NGOs and agricultural and forest industry bodies. We will also provide evidence at the relevant Westminster and Holyrood Parliamentary committees and for the Scottish ClimateXChange. We will disseminate our research findings to land managers at UK and European land management conferences. An improved understanding of the linkage between landscape management and GHG emissions will be used to develop improved advice on mitigation to UK farmers and land managers.
To put our science in a global context, we will host a science workshop on measuring and modelling GHG emissions in managed landscapes, inviting our international partners. To generate links to climate modelling groups, we will work closely with UKMO and ECMWF to upgrade JULES and C-TESSEL for their applications.
Our work will be of interest to those members of the public concerned about climate security and land management. We will engage with local communities around our research sites, to explain our activities and to learn more about local perspectives. We will create press releases, a website and use social media to communicate with the wider public.
We will contribute to the development of a more scientifically literate population through relating our research and core concepts in environmental science to school teachers and pupils. Teaching material will be developed based on our data, emphasising our cutting edge technology (e.g. our aircraft), at the relevant level and to fit with the relevant strands and learning outcomes of the Curriculum for Excellence. Material developed here can also be shown at the Edinburgh International Science Fair.
To summarise, we will use the press, a project website and social media for broad dissemination of data. We make presentations to local UK communities during field campaigns. We will host two workshops with involvement of academic and non-academic project partners. We will create new material and activities with schools, and present at a Science Fair. We will provide evidence to parliamentary committees, report to Defra, DECC and NGOs.


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Cowan N (2017) Nitrous oxide emission sources from a mixed livestock farm in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment

Description We have developed a method for modelling the greenhouse gas emissions from the UK which combines those produced by human activities (e.g. burning gas for energy supply) with natural uptake and release from vegetation (e.g. plant photosynthesis). This allows us to compare the UK greenhouse gas inventory (as reported via collecting statistics on fuel use) with the observed change in the atmosphere (as measured at a network of sites across the UK).
Exploitation Route The results will allow government departments (BEIS and Defra) to verify that the reported inventory is correct (or not), and that the UK is meeting its climate change targets.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

Description The work has allowed us to provide independent verification of the UK greenhouse gas budget. Ultimately this allows us to increase the effectiveness of public services and policy, by providing evidence on where mitigation strategies are proving effective.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description Landscapes For Sequestering Carbon: a dynamic marginal abatement cost curve approach with Bayesian spatio-temporal modelling
Amount £39,730 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/T003960/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2019 
End 06/2020
Description NERC Highlight Topic
Amount £1,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S003614/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 03/2023
Description The future role of measurements in tracking progress on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and targets
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Organisation Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2021 
End 05/2022
Description Stakeholder workshop at Royal Society, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact ~100 stakeholders from government departments, charities and land management interests attended a workshop at the Royal Society. Results of the project were presented, and the implications for future work and decision-making discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017