Dr Rickard is employed by the Composition Directorate within the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS).
The chemistry of the troposphere underlies a range of environmental issues, which have substantial societal and economic impacts. Whether it is a changing climate, a reduction in air quality affecting human health or the degradation of ecosystems due to air pollution, the details of this chemistry determines the severity of the impact. Numerical models of atmospheric chemistry are essential to our ability to understand, predict and hence mitigate these problems. The description of the chemistry occurring within these models is known as the ‘mechanism’. Different models use different levels of chemical complexity in deriving these mechanisms, depending on their individual foci. However, there is an overarching need for a ‘gold standard’ or benchmark mechanism, which contains as full a representation of our fundamental ‘state of science’ understanding of atmospheric chemistry as is possible.
My primary research focus is the update, development and maintenance of the Master Chemical Mechanism (MCM). The MCM is a near-explicit chemical mechanism that describes the detailed gas-phase chemical processes involved in the atmospheric degradation of a series of primary emitted volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It is extensively used by the atmospheric science community in a wide variety of science and policy applications, where chemical detail is required to assess issues related to atmospheric composition. It is also widely used as a benchmark representation against which to develop and optimise reduced chemical mechanisms.
My research also includes the application of the MCM in atmospheric models, development of new MCM mechanisms and their evaluation using detailed smog chamber studies (e.g. at the EUPHORE chamber in Valencia (pictured)).