Professor Grant Allen


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Research interests

Grant is currently active in the following:

  • airborne and satellite measurements of atmospheric composition (using a range of in situ and remote sensing techniques)
  • Drone development for atmospheric sampling and remote sensing
  • pollution transport and modelling (urban and regional, e.g. biomass burning sources)
  • methane and other greenhouse gas emissions in the Arctic and UK - processes and inventories

Current Research Projects

My research interests focus on the use of airborne and satellite in situ and remote sensing data and transport modelling to interpret atmospheric chemical processes and composition budgets, especially those linked to air quality/urban pollution and greenhouse gases. Specific current (active) projects include:

Closing the Global Methane Budget (NERC - 2016-2020)

This NERC-funded project will use (and add to) a global dataset of greenhouse gas measurements - including surface monitoring stations, aircraft and satellites - to attempt to balance the sources and sinks of atmospheric methane in the Earth system. Methane (the second-most important greenhouse gas after CO2) is rising rapidly in the atmosphere and science does not fully understand the reasons why. The relative roles of fossil fuel emissions, wetland emissions, Arctic climate change and biogeochemical sinks must all be understood to close the "budget". This project will use vast datasets and state-of-the-science Earth system models to reconcile these factors and update our understanding of each source and sink term through tailored field work and the setup of new monitoring stations (especially in the Tropics). Grant's role in this project leads FAAM aircraft field projects  ( in Senegal, Uganda and Zambia to study regional source signatures of methane to help apportion and quanitfy fluxes of methane from different source types across the planet.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for the measurement of CH(NERC - 2016-2017)

This 12-month NERC Technology Proof-of-concept project will seek to develop and test a new prototype drone for the remote sensing of methane and pioneer the use of 3D spatial tomography and rapid scanning techniqes to map methane plumes and quantify mass flux.

Environmental Baselining of potential locations of Hydraulic Fracturing (2015-2019)

This Department for Energy and Climate Change (now BEIS) funded project (see is an academically-led and independent project to understand the background environment of locations in Yorkshire and Lancashire ahead of any potential exploratory drilling for shale gas. My role in this project (together with colleagues at the University of York) is to lead the collection of a baseline dataset of atmopsheric composition (including greenhouse gases and air quality) at these two locations to provide a background against any future potential changes due to fracking in those areas can be interpreted and assessed.

NERC EQUIPT4RISK (2018-2022)

This strategic programme addresses the technological and measurement needs to better assess environmental impacts and risk associated with the development of shale gas extraction in the UK. Grant's involvement as the PI of a work package on atmospheric impacts consists of fieldwork and measurements to detect and quantify fugitive emissions of methane and greenhouse gases and air quality impacts.

Other research

Doctoral Thesis

Grant's PhD at Leicester University between 2001-2004 investigated the remote sensing of peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) in the upper troposphere. It investigated the potential for the retrieval of PAN concentration data from remotely sensed infrared spectra of Earth’s atmosphere from atmospheric and space satellite platforms. The PAN molecule is an important atmospheric trace component, both in terms of its role as a reservoir molecule and intercontinental transport vehicle for urban pollution plumes; and through its impact on the ability of Earth’s atmosphere to cleanse itself of volatile organic pollutants. The first recorded laboratory reference spectra for PAN were measured as part of a CASE industrial partnership at the NERC Molecular Spectroscopy Facility (MSF). In conjunction with atmospheric radiative transfer modelling, these reference spectra were used to make the first measurements of PAN concentration data from infrared emission spectra of the Earth’s limb in the upper troposphere as measured by the Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding (MIPAS) onboard ESA’s Envisat satellite. High concentrations of PAN were observed from space in convective outflow and frontal uplift of pollution plumes from megacities in China, with consequent implications for USA air quality downwind.

Previous Research Projects

GAUGE (2013-2017)

The GAUGE project ( addresses the need to validate the UK’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory reporting through top-down (measurement and modelling) approaches. My role in this project (as non-lead PI at Manchester and aircraft work package manager) will be to use measurements from the prestigious NERC FAAM aircraft ( to attempt to provide snapshots of closed-budget UK GHG emissions throughout several campaigns in 2014/2015.

VOCALS (VAMOS Ocean-Cloud-Atmosphere-Land Study)

Project Coordinator of the VOCALS-UK campaign. In the field, Grant planned aircraft science missions to study dynamical and microphysical influences on stratocumulus cloud formation and their representation in cloud-resolving, regional and climate models. Post-campaign interests involved a satellite and modelling analysis of trapped boundary layer gravity waves and their influence on convective processes in the South East Pacific (SEP), as well as atmospheric chemical and aerosol processing and composition statistical analysis from aircraft measurements and validation of local emissions inventories.

ACTIVE (Aerosol and Chemical Transport In tropical convection)

Darwin, Australia Nov 2005 –Feb 2006

Between 2005 and 2008, Grant worked as a researcher on the NERC-funded ACTIVE campaign. This campaign took place during the wet season in Darwin, Australia and employed two aircraft: the ARSF Dornier 228-101, and the Grob G520T Egrett aircraft operated by Airborne Research Australia. Fieldwork included flying as a mission scientist onboard the NERC Dornier-228 aircraft, the launch of stratospheric balloons measuring ozone and thermodynamic structure and data quality analysis for aircraft instrumentation. Post-campaign research included regional composition studies and relationships with local meteorology and climate, as well as the analysis of synoptic-scale dynamics and modulation of tropical deep convection.



Research and projects