An external view of the Met Office building at night.

Dr Gerd Folberth

Areas of expertise

  • Tropospheric chemistry modelling

  • Biosphere atmosphere chemical exchange processes

  • Climate air quality interaction

Current activities

Gerd's work is focused on gaining a better understanding of the interactions and links between human and natural emissions of trace gases and pollutants (such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, VOCs), air quality and climate change. He develops numerical models of atmospheric chemistry in the HadGEM2 Earth System framework. This work includes developing representations of emission processes, chemical transformation and removal of atmospheric trace constituents.

In his research Gerd studies the long-range transport and chemical transformation of atmospheric pollutants, the emission of natural volatile species such as isoprene and terpenes from the terrestrial biosphere and their response to climate change, including the connection between air quality and climate. Natural VOCs and man-made pollutants affect the atmospheric lifetime of greenhouse gases and, thus, contribute to global warming. Natural VOCs also form fine particles, aerosols, that have a cooling effect in the atmosphere by increasing the backscatter of solar radiation to space but are also known to impact human health. Emissions of VOCs from natural sources depend on plant productivity which itself will change with increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and with increasing temperatures. But plant productivity is also affected by the levels of air pollution such as surface ozone which

causes damages to the plant leafs and reduces productivity. Tropospheric ozone is a product of of VOCs from both human and natural sources and nitrogen oxides which predominantly stem from human activities.

Gerd's work contributes to international research projects such as the European Commission FP7 project MEGAPOLI that aims to asses the impact of Megacities on air quality and climate in a seamless approach spanning from urban to global scales. His research provides policy relevant input to DEFRA (within the SSNIP collaboration) and DECC and the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. A better understanding of these processes will result in an improved representation in the HadGEM2 Earth System Model and consequently more accurate predictions of future air quality and climate. This will help to asses the impact of future climate and air quality on human health (through ozone and fine particles) and plant productivity (plant damage through pollutants) with possible implications for food and bio fuel production in the future.

Career background

Gerd has more than ten years of experience in atmospheric chemistry modelling, both in model development and application to hot topics in science. These include contributions to international programs (TF-HTAP, GCC, METRIC, ECCA) and pursuing his own research interests which focus on the chemical feedbacks between the biosphere and atmosphere.

Gerd obtained an MSc in Theoretical Physics and a PhD in Geophysics at the University of Graz in Austria. He went on to work as postdoc research scientist in France (LSCE CNRS/CEA), Canada (CCCma Environment Canada) and Switzerland (ETH Lausanne) before he joined the Met Office Hadley Centre in 2008. Since then Gerd has contributed to the development of UKCA. He has built an extended tropospheric chemistry version of UKCA with emphasis on a more detailed representation of VOCs chemistry, in particular the chemistry of natural VOCs such as isoprene or terpenes.

Gerd has also contributed to the interactive biogenic VOC emission scheme iBVOC linking the land-surface and the atmosphere in the UM.