Dan Potts

University of Leicester


Smarter analysis of satellite data for air quality regulators


  • Dr. Joshua Vande Hey
  • Dr. Emma Ferranti

PhD Summary

Currently, regulatory agencies do not use satellite air quality data in their day to day activities. This leaves an enormous wealth of information about our emissions and its sources untouched. In my research I am using a host of Earth observation satellites to investigate anthropogenic emissions of key pollutants involved with climate change and public health. Working with the Environment Agency as a CASE partner, I will be developing new techniques and creating new tools that regulatory bodies, such as EA, can add to their arsenal of regulatory tools. Through a number of case-studies I hope to demonstrate the potential of current and future generation satellite data in the fight against climate change.

Previous activity

Before my PhD I studied for a Masters in Physics at the University of Leicester.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

My undergraduate project involved using the Sentinel-5P satellite to monitor emissions from some of the world’s largest power stations, and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire project. The PhD I chose allowed me to expand on this work, with a focus on helping to improve regulation for some of the UK’s biggest emitters. The entire spirit of research inspired me, a community of people all working to improve the global understanding of the world around us. It’s something I’m very proud to be a part of, and I’m very excited to make my own contribution.

Why did you choose CENTA?

I chose a CENTA studentship as it not only allowed me to do research in the exact field that interested me so much, but it also offered a unique variety of training and support throughout the PhD. CENTA strives for a greater understanding of our natural environment, and their PhD offered an opportunity to directly work to improve the environment around me.

Future plans

I’m still not sure where I want to head after my PhD. I know I want to continue to push our understanding of climate change forward, whether that be as a post-doctoral researcher, working for an agency like the EA, or something completely new. I truly believe satellite data will be the key ingredient needed to effectively combat our emissions, and with a number of revolutionary satellites launching within the next five or so years, it’s a very exciting field to be entering.