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PhD position Estimation of Burning Efficiency Using Satellite Measurements

Research topic The cluster seeks a highly motivated PhD student to develop a new method for investigating burning efficiency using satellite measurements. Humans have strongly influenced the chemical composition of the atmosphere, primarily by burning ...

12 maanden geleden


De Boelelaan, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
40 uur
€ 2222 - € 2840 per maand


Research topic
The cluster seeks a highly motivated PhD student to develop a new method for investigating burning efficiency using satellite measurements. Humans have strongly influenced the chemical composition of the atmosphere, primarily by burning fossil fuels for generating energy. The mix of gases and particles that is emitted depends strongly on the burning conditions, in particular the combustion efficiency. Despite its importance, regional variations and trends in combustion efficiency remain poorly quantified, and are a major factor limiting the accuracy of national and global inventories of anthropogenic emissions.
In this project, burning efficiency is studied using the ratio between the total column densities of NO2 and CO as measured by the TROPOMI satellite instrument. TROPOMI, which was launched successfully in October last year, is exceptionally well suited for this project, as it measures both compounds with unprecedented spatial resolution and global coverage.

Atmospheric plumes from local NO2 and CO emissions will be investigated using a meso-scale chemistry and transport model (WRF-CHEM). Inverse modelling methods will be used to relate TROPOMI observed pollution plumes to emissions, and emission ratios. Using this approach, information is obtained on how the burning conditions vary in space and time. This provides important new information supporting the development and evaluation of emission inventories, and will yield valuable insights into the efficiency of fuel usage. Accurate emission inventories are important for developing policies to reduce emissions, in order to improve air quality and combat climate change.
The project is carried out in collaboration with SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, KNMI, and TNO.

• to analyse global patterns in TROPOMI observed CO to NO2 ratios
• to develop a reference method for quantifying NO2 and CO emissions using atmospheric modeling
• to derive a simplified fast method that performs good enough compared with the reference method, but can more easily be applied to a global dataset.
• to present progress at project meetings and international conferences
• to publish results in international journals
• to contribute to teaching in the VU Earth Science program


The PhD student is expected to:
• have a strong interest in the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere, and the use of numerical models in combination with large datasets to learn more about combustion processes and fire;
• have a proven experience in computer programming;
• have extended knowledge on the functioning of the Earth’s biogeochemical cycles;
• have a M.Sc. in Earth Science, Physics, Applied Mathematics or related studies;
• be fluent in English speaking and writing.


We offer a PhD position for the duration of four years. The initial appointment for a period of one year will be extended with 3 years under the condition of a positive progress evaluation after one year.

You can find information about our excellent fringe benefits of employment at www.workingatvu.nl like:
• remuneration of 8,3% end-of-year bonus and 8% holiday allowance;
• solid pension scheme (ABP);
• a minimum of 29 holidays in case of full-time employment;
• possibilities to save up holidays for sabbatical leave;
• a contribution to commuting allowance;

The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel, starting at € 2.222,- gross per month in the first year increasing to € 2.840,- gross per month in the fourth year.

Additional information

For additional information please contact: Prof. dr. ir. Sander Houweling, Department of Earth Sciences,
e-mail: s.houweling@vu.nl

Applicants are requested to write a letter in which they describe their abilities, motivation, and research interests, accompanied by a curriculum vitae. Written applications should be sent by e-mail before 15 February 2018 to Mrs. Fenny Bosse

Please mention the vacancy number in the e-mail header.

Any other correspondence in response to this advertisement will not be dealt with.


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) is a leading, innovative and growing university that is at the heart of society and actively contributes to new developments in teaching and research. Our university has ten faculties, and provides work for over 4,500 staff and scientific education for more than 23,000 students.

Research at the Faculty of Sciences (https://science.vu.nl) focuses on Earth sciences, natural sciences and informatics, life sciences, health sciences, and environmental sciences. It offers a range of high-quality BSc and MSc programmes. World-class teaching and cutting-edge research activities go hand in hand.

The Department of Earth Sciences is one of the thirteen departments in the Faculty of Sciences. It operates with two research clusters: 'Earth and Climate' and 'Geology and Geochemistry' which teach the Earth Sciences and Earth and Economics BSc and MSc programmes. The Earth and Climate cluster has developed a strong teaching and research profile in the field of climate change focusing on carbon and nitrogen cycle research and landscape dynamics, both on a regional and global scale, and based on both fieldwork and modelling. Subjects include boreal and arctic carbon dynamics, hydrological modelling, terrestrial disturbances such as wildfires and deforestation, atmospheric dynamics of aerosols and greenhouse gases. Furthermore, in the larger cluster context, our integrated approach combines expertise in proxy development, (Quaternary) climate modelling, unraveling of landscape evolution and modelling, and reconstructions of climate evolution from terrestrial and marine records.