Advanced computing architecture to support the estimation and reporting of UK GHG emissions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Chemistry


Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be inferred from measurements of their atmospheric concentration using computationally demanding Bayesian "inverse" methods. This information is being used by research groups at the University of Bristol (UoB) and the University of Edinburgh (UoE) to a) quantify the magnitude and uncertainty of emissions from the UK and other countries, and b) determine the drivers of natural atmospheric GHG variability. This work is underpins several major projects including: a) the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) monitoring network, responsible for reporting UK GHG emissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, b) the £3m NERC-funded Greenhouse gAs Uk and Global Emissions (GAUGE) consortium (Palmer is PI, Rigby is co-I), c) the NASA and DECC-funded Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (Rigby is member), and d) the National Centre for Earth Observation.

This work involves two stages. Firstly, chemical transport models (CTMs; e.g. the UK Met Office NAME model) are run on multi-node clusters, before their output is compared to observations for emissions verification using (usually) single-node data analysis systems. The statistical techniques for the latter involve the use of CPU- and memory-intensive linear algebra algorithms on extremely large arrays, which are already pushing the limits of our existing infrastructure. Activities within the DECC network and GAUGE now pose further challenges: 1) to fully exploit a rapidly growing quantity of heterogeneous measurement data (many millions of data points); 2) to use these data to infer emissions at higher resolution than ever before (e.g. making use of NAME model output at a horizontal resolution of 1.5 km over the UK). The proposed assets will help to strengthen our ability to carry out this second stage of this work.

Planned Impact

The proposed assets will be used to estimate GHG emissions for national reporting commitments to the UNFCCC. The improvement in spatial resolution afforded by this new system will ultimately provide more accurate emissions reporting to inform global climate policy-making. By making full use of DECC network and GAUGE observations, this work will serve as a road map for future emissions verification efforts by the research community and the private sector (e.g. Earth Networks Ltd.).

The use of GPU processing is new in our field, and we will work with the Tech-X corporation (Boulder, CO) to optimise existing IDL code for use with GPU units (


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Description We have developed a method for estimating greenhouse gas emissions using Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods, using the new graphical processing units that have been installed on this machine.
Exploitation Route The software libraries that we are currently developing on these machines will be published online. We will continue development of this software jointly with researchers around the world.
Sectors Environment

Description This capital award was used to purchase two powerful computers, one at the University of Bristol and another at the University of Edinburgh. These machines have been operating for almost 12 months and have allowed us to simulate the atmospheric chemistry and transport of several important greenhouse gases. Several publications that have used model simulations carried out on these machines are in preparation.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Environment
Description Edwards Ltd. semiconductor manufacture PFC emissions 
Organisation Edwards
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Model simulations of perfluorocarbons (PFCs) in the atmosphere.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of data and expertise.
Impact No outcomes yet.
Start Year 2015
Description Global Carbon Project-methane 
Organisation Laboratory of Climate Sciences and the Environment (LSCE)
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Model simulations of global atmospheric methane
Collaborator Contribution Publications, data provision
Impact Kirschke et al (2013), Nature Geoscience.
Start Year 2013
Description NASA JPL 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Statistical investigation of model parameterisations in OCO-2 retrieval code.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of data and model output.
Impact No outcomes yet
Start Year 2016
Description University of Wollongong 
Organisation University of Wollongong
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Model runs, data provision and processing, expertise in atmospheric modelling and statistics.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in statistics
Impact Several publications, with further work in the pipeline.
Start Year 2013
Description Carbon tetrachloride workshop: Solving the carbon tetrachloride mystery 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A workshop to determine the global budget of carbon tetrachloride, a potent ozone depleting substance. A report of the workshop is in progress and will be disseminated to policy makers involved in the Montreal Protocol.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016