November 9, 2020

UK air pollution futures and their health impacts

UK air pollution futures and their health impacts

Poor air quality is the number one environmental health threat in the UK, contributing to ~30,000 deaths per year, while also exacerbating several health conditions. Air quality depends on the amount of pollutant emissions and the prevailing weather conditions. This means that we expect it to be different in the future, both due to changes in emitting activity (e.g., more/fewer cars, different methods of power/heat generation) and climate (e.g., increased propensity for stagnant air conditions and heat waves). Projections of air quality and its health impacts are an important part of evaluating risks for different plausible futures, yet this is typically done by presenting multi-year average results for a limited set of socioeconomic scenarios. Moreover, these scenarios are formulated at a global scale and seldom account for local scale emission patterns nor air quality management possibilities

In this project, you will address these shortcomings. Working with researchers from Lancaster, the JBA Trust and Public Health England (PHE), you will develop locally appropriate and relatable future air quality “storylines”, which are more grounded in the lived experience of local stakeholders (policymakers and communities) compared to typical future projections. To do this, you will use learn to analyse large environment datasets, adapt and run environmental models, and assess the health impacts of the different futures. You will also develop allied skills in communicating your work to varied audiences, writing scientific code and visualizing complex data.

You will sit within a thriving research environment interested in better understanding future global change. This includes the joint Lancaster-CEH Centre of Excellence for Environmental Data Science and Lancaster’s Institute for Social Futures, where environmental science respectively meets data science, and the social sciences and humanities. Overall, you will gain enviable experience of how impactful environmental science is done in academic, commercial and public sector contexts.


We are looking for a self-motivated candidate with an interest in atmospheric science, air pollution or climate. Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Natural or Environmental Science, or a related discipline. As the project involves the use of atmospheric models and large observational datasets, it is well suited towards numerate candidates with an interest in scientific computing. We don’t expect you to have these skills on day one (although that would be an advantage), but you will have to demonstrate to us that you will be able to learn and develop them yourself. You must have demonstrable potential and enthusiasm for creative, high-quality PhD research in environmental science and health.


For further details please contact Paul Young (