Carbon Watch NZ

CO2 measurements from Baring Head.


One year ago

Ten years ago

Pre-industrial 280

Atmospheric carbon dioxide parts per million (last updated )

Find out more about these measurements

CarbonWatch NZ combines measurements of greenhouse gases in the air above New Zealand with models that tell where those gases have come from, giving us a bird's eye view of our country’s carbon balance.

This is combined with bottom-up knowledge about land processes, including information about greenhouse gas emissions and absorption from cities, pastures and forests.

As New Zealand decision makers and individuals work together to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, CarbonWatch NZ will quickly demonstrate the benefit of these actions.

The system we are developing in New Zealand may serve as an example for other places through the Integrated Global Greenhouse Gas Information System (IG3IS) framework. 

“What makes CarbonWatch NZ so vital is that doing this work is not just about scientific discovery, it is work that will make a real difference in people’s lives.


No other country is producing national scale CO2 uptake and emission estimates based on atmospheric data, nor is any other country as close to establishing this capability as we are.”

Dr Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher, Atmosphere - Ocean Scientist

Project at a glance

Project at a glance

The project is a collaboration between NIWA, GNS Science, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Auckland Council and the University of Waikato.

NIWA GNS Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research NIWA Auckland Council

CarbonWatch NZ - the science

By combining measurements of greenhouse gases in the air above New Zealand with high resolution weather models that show where those gases have come from, CarbonWatch NZ will develop a complete top-down picture of our country’s carbon balance. This is known as an inverse modelling approach.

Simulations from a land model and ocean carbon data will provide additional information. 

CarbonWatch NZ is addressing crucial carbon cycle questions in the landscapes that are most important to New Zealand’s carbon balance: indigenous and exotic forests, farmland and urban environments. It will measure our two main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), as well as other gases that will help us understand processes.

Project updates - CarbonWatch NZ

November 2019: Atmospheric Scientist vacancy - join the CarbonWatch NZ team!

We're on the hunt for someone to support the long running observations at our atmospheric observing site, Baring Head near Wellington, and the establishment of eight new greenhouse gas observing stations throughout New Zealand as part of CarbonWatchNZ. Find out more here.

October 2019: CarbonWatch NZ seeking PhD student for greenhouse gas measurements and monitoring

CarbonWatch NZ has an exciting three-year opportunity for someone to assist with one or more newly established in situ greenhouse gas observing stations, analysing greenhouse gas data from established stations, and interpreting the measurements using model simulations.

Read more here or email to find out more.

August 2019: First flux tower set up in Central Otago

The first new flux tower has been installed in Central Otago. Adjacent to NIWA's optics observatory laboratory at Lauder, it's the first time a flux tower has been sited alongside a long-term greenhouse gas observation site with its own 10m mast and gas sampling capability. The new tower measures the exhange of CO2 between the atmosphere and the pasture immediately upwind - this will reveal important insights about the balance between photosynthesis during the day and respiration from the soil and plants at night. 

June 2019: Air sampling in Fiordland for carbon cycle studies 

Regular air sampling in Fiordland has recently begun with the goal to study carbon fluxes in one of New Zealand’s most pristine, native forests. New equipment was designed, built and tested in Wellington before it was successfully deployed at two field sites in Fiordland: At “McCracken’s Rest” near the South-Western tip of the South Island’s coast, and at fringe of Lake Monowai, some 50 km inland from the Southern coast. Sampling will continue at these two sites and we will also investigate further potential sites for the future. 

May 2019: First CarbonWatch NZ meeting 

NIWA hosted the first meeting for investigators and stakeholders of the MBIE-Endeavour funded CarbonWatch NZ project. Four sessions addressed the different research areas of the project: national scale estimates, grassland carbon exchange, forest carbon exchange and Auckland urban CO2 emissions. In each session, stakeholders from central or local government or forest trusts presented their insights and interest in the research followed by the investigators from NIWA, GNS Science, Landcare Research, and University of Waikato. Discussions galvanised the research strategies to identify the best measurements and modelling approaches for the most relevant research questions. 

April 2019: CarbonWatch NZ lead presents project at EGU General Assembly

Sara Mikaloff Fletcher was invited to talk about CarbonWatch NZ at the European Geophysical Union (EGU) General Assembly earlier this year. This special union-wide session was held as the World Meteorological Organization's Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) programme celebrated its 30th anniversary. The programme included one invited talk for each category of atmospheric measurements that GAW supports, highlighting how the atmospheric greenhouse gas measurements programme has evolved from pure research to providing benefits to decision makers.


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Atmosphere-Ocean Scientist

Principal Scientist - Atmosphere

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Principal Technician - Atmosphere

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Atmospheric Scientist

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Atmospheric Modeller

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Principal Technician - Atmosphere

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Atmospheric Technician

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Principal Technician - Atmosphere

GNS Science

  • Jocelyn Turnbull
  • Liz Keller

Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research

  • Miko Kirschbaum
  • Donna Giltrap
  • John Hunt
  • Scott Graham

University of Waikato