Dr Chris Wilson

Dr Chris Wilson


Chris is a research scientist for the UK’s National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) and the School of Earth & Environment at Leeds. He is a member of the Atmospheric Chemistry Modelling group, with 17 years’ experience in academic research. His research focuses on using earth observation (EO) data, models of the atmosphere and data assimilation (DA) to improve our understanding of emissions of a range of pollutants and greenhouse gases. This involves establishing methods to statistically optimise the combined information provided by models and observations to investigate the processes that affect emissions of trace gases in the atmosphere.

Chris joined ICAS as a PhD student in October 2007, after completing his undergraduate degree in Mathematics at the University of Oxford and a Masters degree in Computational Fluid Dynamics at Leeds. During his PhD he developed DA methods to couple with the TOMCAT model of the atmosphere, investigating recent changes to the atmospheric methane budget and the emissions driving those variations.

Chris developed the inverse transport model INVICAT, based on TOMCAT. INVICAT uses four-dimensional variational (4D-Var) data assimilation methods to produce optimised observation-based flux estimates for atmospheric trace gases. INIVCAT has been used by Chris and others to study the global carbon cycle, atmospheric methane, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide and a range of other trace gases.

Working at NCEO since 2015, Chris combines his expertise with satellite data, state-of-the-art inverse modelling methods and emissions to explore the global carbon cycle, fires and other important atmosphere-biosphere interactions. He also contributes to the International NCEO strand, investigating the global carbon-water cycle. Chris’ research ranges across scales, focusing on global budgets, regional changes in the tropics and the arctic, and significant point source emissions such as those from gas leaks

Chris is Co-I of the EO4CH4 (STFC-funded) and InHALE (NERC-funded) projects. He delivers lectures on a range of topics including EO from space, mathematics for environmental scientists and air quality. He supervises a number of PhD students and MRes students, detailed below.

Chris is an editor for the EGU journal Atmospheric Chemsity and Physics (ACP).

Methane emissions from South America, 2010 - 2018
Total South American methane emissions (mg m^−2 d^−1) for the period 2009–2018, (a) before and (b) after assimilation of observations made by the GOSAT satellite. Panel (c) shows the difference. This shows that emissions in the north-eastern region of the continent were underestimated in our best previous datasets (indicated by the strong red colouring in panel (c)).


Key Papers


Research interests

  • Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (e.g. CH4, CO2, N2O) and their emissions.
  • Wildfires and their emissions, including carbon monoxide.
  • The carbon cycle and methane emissions of the Amazon Basin.
  • Data assimilation and inverse modelling techniques.
  • Emissions of trace gas species including ethane and carbonyl sulphide.
  • Earth Observation from Space – including the following satellites and instruments 
    • GOSAT
    • IASI (on MetOp A/B/C)
    • TROPOMI (on Sentinel-5P)
    • OCO-2
    • MOPITT (on TERRA)
    • GHGSat


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, Atmospheric Science, University of Leeds [2011]
  • MSc, Computational Fluid Dynamics, University of Leeds [2007]
  • BA, Mathematics, University of Oxford [2006]

Student education

Chris contributes to student teaching within the School. He has lectured on a range of topics whilst at Leeds, including

Chris has also lectured on space weather, and will lecture on global air quality on the forthcoming Masters course on that topic.

Chris supervises MRes students on greenhouse gas-related dissertation projects.

Chris has supervised PhD students on projects related to atmospheric trace gases, including:

  • Emily Dowd, University of Leeds [2020 – present]
  • Tom Claxton, University of Lancaster [2016 – 2021], co-supervised with Dr Ryan Hossaini
  • Peter Joyce, University of Leeds [2017 – 2021], co-supervised with Prof. Manuel Gloor
  • Zihao Wang, University of Leeds [2020 – present], co-supervised with Prof. Martyn Chipperfield
  • Emma Sands, University of Edinburgh [2021 – present], co-supervised with Prof. Ruth Doherty

Research groups and institutes

  • Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science
  • Atmospheric Chemistry and Aerosols

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>