Rob MacKenzie is an atmospheric scientist interested in problems at the interface of air quality, atmospheric chemistry, and climate. A great deal of his work has used specialist research aircraft to gather data which he interprets with the aid of atmospheric models of various kinds. Rob is developing a broader understanding of urban systems and their resilience, particularly urban green infrastructure.
Rob has a particular interest in how plants affect air composition. watch a video of him describing this research in 60 seconds by clicking on the play icon above.
BSc (Hons) Environmental Chemistry, Edinburgh, 1986
PhD “Small System Modelling of the Atmospheric Boundary Layer”, Essex, 1989
During his PhD, Rob MacKenzie studied the atmospheric photochemistry of the mid-latitude boundary layer, including carrying out the first modeling study of the effect of biogenic volatile organic compounds (bVOCs) on ozone production downwind of a European city (MacKenzie et al., Atmos. Environ., 1991). This fascination with bVOCs and photochemistry returned when he took up a Lectureship (subsequently Senior Lectureship and Readership) at Lancaster University. He was deeply involved in the OP3 project to study the atmospheric composition over the tropical rainforest of Borneo, and the impact of land-use change on atmospheric chemistry (MacKenzie et al., Proc. Roy. Soc. B, 2011). The team were able to show for the first time the prodigious capacity for ozone production if bVOC-laden air from oil palm plantations picks up nitrogen oxides (either through mixing or by changes to agricultural practice)(Hewitt et al., PNAS, 2009).
Before joining Lancaster, Rob spent 10 years in the Centre for Atmospheric Science of the University of Cambridge as its Scientific Coordinator. During that time, Rob worked on issues related to the depletion of stratospheric ozone, particularly the behaviour of polar stratospheric clouds (reviewed in Lowe and MacKenzie, J. Atmos. Solar-Terrestr. Phys., 2008). He also became deeply involved in the use of high-altitude aircraft for atmospheric science, and was a core team member of most of the scientific deployments of the Geophysica aircraft (see, e.g., Stefanutti et al., 2004; Cairo et al., 2010). Latterly, the focus of research in the atmospheric composition affecting the ozone layer has focused to processes at the tropical tropopause. Rob’s work has included modeling studies of processes controlling the water budget at the tropical tropospause (Ren et al., ACP, 2007) and multi-aircraft campaigns to characterize transport and chemistry in the tropical tropopause region (Vaughan et al., BAMS, 2008).
In August 2011, Rob accepted a Chair in Atmospheric Science at the School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham. Here he intends to continue his research into issues at the interface of air quality, global atmospheric chemistry, and climate, using models and field deployments, including the use of unmanned aircraft such as the NASA Global Hawk.
Other opportunities for graduate study in Professor MacKenzie’s group can be found at www.FindaPhD.com – search: provider = University of Birmingham and keywords = mackenzie.
Rob MacKenzie has graduated 6 PhD students and has 3 finishing at Lancaster. He is currently building his group at Birmingham.
New studentship opportunity
Rob MacKenzie is looking for a talented candidate to take up the challenge of a PhD bridging artificial intelligence and climate science. This studentship is based at Lancaster University School of Computing and Communications, but will be co-supervised by Rob. The studentship is part of the multi-million-pound NERC-NASA CAST (Coordinated Airborne Studies in the Tropics) project.
Rob’s group develops atmospheric chemistry models. The group continues to develop the CiTTyCAT atmospheric chemistry model and have applied it to remote and polluted environments. The group is interested in developing tools for urban planners and regulators. One such tool is the Urban Tree Air Quality Score (Donovan et al., ES&T, 2005). The group is currently working with a wide range of other researchers to study the interdisciplinary problems associated with urban regeneration. The project – Urban Futures - uses scenario/futures analysis to establish the robustness of measures put in place today in the name of sustainability. The project also includes detailed disciplinary work on urban air quality.
The latest urban atmospheric chemistry project that Rob is working on – the European Research Council FASTER project, led by Prof Roy Harrison – will involve adding the MADVEC aerosol composition model to a large-eddy simulation model.
Rob’s research on the ozone layer is continuing with the CAST project - see the NERC press release, or the BBC news story / BBC video feature (but do please note the correction regarding the ownership and history of the UK BAe146 Atmospheric Research Aircraft).
A NERC / RSC Analytical Science & Technology studentship proposal co-supervised by Bill Bloss, Chris Mayhew (Physics) and Rob is available now. The project will exploit systematic control of fragmentation within proton-transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) to distinguish between atmospheric biogenic & aromatic compounds. The project is a CASE award jointly with Kore Technology Ltd.
Listen to Rob's podcast 'Greening up our cities: tackling air pollution with plants' (MP3 - 13.3MB) or read the podcast transcript.
Rob MacKenzie is a member of the NERC Pool of Chairs. He is an Associate editor for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and has acted as editor for 5 special sections of the journal.
Previously, he has been:
Reviewer for the European Commission (2006 -2008), including acting as project evaluator for the AMMA-EU Framework VI project
Executive Committee member of the SCOUT-O3 integrated project (2004 - 2009)
Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the European Economic Interest Grouping that ran the scientific programme of the Geophysica research aircraft (2000 - 2006)
Secretary to the Atmospheric Chemistry Specialist Group of the Royal Meteorological Society (1994 – 1998)
External examiner, University of Leeds MRes “Physics of the Earth and Environment” (2003 - 2007)
Most recent publications
See a full list of publications (PDF 58KB)
Pugh, T. A. M., A. R. MacKenzie, J. D. Whyatt, and C. N. Hewitt (2012). "The effectiveness of green infrastructure for improvement of air quality in urban street canyons." Environmental Science & Technology, 46 (14), 7692-7699. DOI: 10.1021/es300826w.
This paper formed the basis of a report on BBC Radio 4’s Costing the Earth programme, broadcast Wednesday 14 September 2011 and was the subject of extensive media coverage in July 2012 (e.g.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18873391)
Boyko, C. T., M. R. Gaterell, A. R. G. Barber, J. Brown, J. R. Bryson, D. Butler, S. Caputo, M. Caserio, R. Coles, R. Cooper, G. Davies, R. Farmani, J. Hale, A. C. Hales, C. N. Hewitt, D. V. L. Hunt, L. Jankovic, I. Jefferson, J. M. Leach, D. R. Lombardi, A. R. MacKenzie, F. A. Memon, T. A. M. Pugh, J. P. Sadler, C. Weingaertner, J. D. Whyatt, & C. D. F. Rogers, Benchmarking sustainability in cities: The role of indicators and future scenarios, Global Environmental Change, doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.10.004, 2011.
Hewitt, CN, K Ashworth, A. Boynard, A. Guenther, B Langford, AR MacKenzie, PK Misztal, E Nemitz, SM Owen, M Possell, TAM Pugh, AC Ryan and O Wild, Ground-level ozone influenced by circadian control of isoprene emissions, Nature Geoscience, doi:10.1038/ngeo1271, 2011.
This paper was given a front-page strap-line and was the subject of a News & Views item in Nature Geoscience. The paper received extensive press coverage, including in Science.
Ryan, A. C., S. Watkins, A. R. MacKenzie, and R. Timmis, Using World War II contrails to study aviation effects on climate, Int. J. Clim., DOI: 10.1002/joc.2392, 2011.
This paper was the subject of a press release that generated a great deal of interest, with articles in several newspapers, the Fox News web site, Scientific American and the Natural History Magazine. See the World War II contrails press release.
This paper was in the top 5 research stories from University of Birmingham in the media in 2011.
MacKenzie, A.R., B. Langford, T.A.M. Pugh, N. Robinson, P. K. Misztal, D. E. Heard, J. D. Lee, A. C. Lewis, C. E. Jones, J. R. Hopkins, G. Philips, P. S. Monks, A. Karunaharan, K. E. Hornsby, V. Nicolas-Perea, H. Coe, L.K. Whalley, P. M. Edwards, M. J. Evans, D. Stone, T. Ingham R. Commane, K. L. Furneaux, J. McQuaid, E. Nemitz, Yap Kok Seng, D. Fowler, J. A. Pyle, and C.N. Hewitt, The atmospheric chemistry of trace gases and particulate matter emitted by different land uses in Borneo, Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. B, 366, 3177-3195, doi:10.1098/rstb.2011.0053, 2011.
Gormally, A., A. R. MacKenzie, and W. Tych, Extending Manley’s Lancashire Plain Temperature Record: 1753 - 2007, Int. J. Clim., doi: 10.1002/joc.2404, 2011.
Horseman, A.M., A. R. MacKenzie, and M. P. Chipperfield, Tracers and traceability: implementing cirrus in a chemistry-transport model as an example of the application of quality assurance to legacy models, Geosci. Model Dev., 3, 189-203, 2010
Hewitt, C. N., Lee, J. D., MacKenzie, A. R., Barkley, M. P., Carslaw, N., Carver, G. D., Chappell, N. A., Coe, H., Collier, C., Commane, R., Davies, F., Davison, B., DiCarlo, P., Di Marco, C. F., Dorsey, J. R., Edwards, P. M., Evans, M. J., Fowler, D., Furneaux, K. L., Gallagher, M., Guenther, A., Heard, D. E., Helfter, C., Hopkins, J., Ingham, T., Irwin, M., Jones, C., Karunaharan, A., Langford, B., Lewis, A. C., Lim, S. F., MacDonald, S. M., Mahajan, A. S., Malpass, S., McFiggans, G., Mills, G., Misztal, P., Moller, S., Monks, P. S., Nemitz, E., Nicolas-Perea, V., Oetjen, H., Oram, D. E., Palmer, P. I., Phillips, G. J., Pike, R., Plane, J. M. C., Pugh, T., Pyle, J. A., Reeves, C. E., Robinson, N. H., Stewart, D., Stone, D., Whalley, L. K., and Yin, X.: Overview: oxidant and particle photochemical processes above a south-east Asian tropical rainforest (the OP3 project): introduction, rationale, location characteristics and tools, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 169-199, 2010.
Pugh, TAM, AR MacKenzie, CN Hewitt, B Langford, PM Edwards, KL Furneaux, DE Heard, JR Hopkins, CE Jones, A Karunaharan, J Lee, G Mills, P Misztal, S Moller, PS Monks, and LK Whalley, Simulating atmospheric composition over a South-East Asian tropical rainforest: Performance of a chemistry box model, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 279-298, 2010.
Lee, D. S., and A. R. MacKenzie, Trans-hemispheric effects of large volcanic eruptions as recorded by an early nineteenth century diary, Int. J. Clim., DOI: 10.1002/joc.2034, 2009.
Hewitt, C.N., A.R. MacKenzie, P. Di Carlo, J.R. Dorsey, M. Evans, D. Fowler, M.W. Gallagher, C. Helfter, J. Hopkins, H. Jones, B. Langford, J.D. Lee, A.C. Lewis, S.F. Lim, C. di Marco, P. Misztal, S. Moller, P.S. Monks, E. Nemitz, D.E. Oram, S.M. Owen, G. Phillips, T. Pugh, J.A. Pyle, C.E. Reeves, J. Ryder, J. Siong, U. Skiba, D.J. Stewart, R. Thomas, Nitrogen management is essential to prevent tropical oil palm plantations from causing ozone pollution, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 106, 18447-18451, 2009