School of Engineering

Staff Profile

Dr Nigel Penna

Senior Lecturer in Geomatics



I am a geodesist and engineering surveyor, with main research interests being the application of GPS to Earth systems observation and monitoring (geophysical processes, tides, atmosphere), engineering deformations, and the modelling, mitigation and understanding of GPS error sources for improved positioning and navigation.


PhD, Engineering Surveying and Space Geodesy, University of Nottingham, 1997
MSc (Distinction), Engineering Surveying and Geodesy, University of Nottingham, 1994
BEng (First Class Honours), Civil Engineering, University of Nottingham, 1993

Previous Positions

November 2007 - April 2008: Visiting scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, USA

August 2000 - July 2004: Research Fellow / Lecturer, Department of Spatial Sciences, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia

October 1997 - July 2000: Research Associate, IESSG, University of Nottingham


Corporate member of the Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors

Member of Working Group 1 'Geodetic observation-level modelling and systematic biases' of EC Cost Action ES0701 'Improved constraints on models of glacial isostatic adjustment' and IGS Tropospheric Product Working Group.


Research Interests

I am currently heavily involved in assessing the quality of ocean tide models, and determining the anelastic properties of the Earth using GPS, as well as using global GPS to improve the confidence of vertical land movement monitoring for sea level and post-glacial rebound studies. In particular, in recent years I have extensively investigated features in GPS time series, particularly the cause of semi-annual and annual signals, plus higher frequency noise, in order to improve the confidence with which GPS can be used in geophysical studies, particularly height determination. Directly linked to this is GPS's ability to estimate atmospheric water vapour, and I've worked closely with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to investigate the application of GPS to improving Australian numerical weather prediction.

Other Expertise

Engineering surveying
Subsidence monitoring


I am currently an investigator on the following funded projects:

The determination of a new global GPS-derived surface velocity field and its application to the problem of 20th century sea-level rise
Matt King, Peter Clarke, Stuart Edwards, Philip Moore, Nigel Penna, Mike Bentley, Simon Williams (with Philippe Huybrechts, Erik Ivins, David Lavallee, Glenn Milne, Gary Mitchum, Paul Tregoning, Frank Webb, Terry Wilson)
NERC Standard Grant NE/E007023/1, 2007-2010, £602k.

Improved constraints on global-scale hydrological change by determining secular geocenter motion and low degrees of the surface mass load
Peter Clarke, Matt King, Philip Moore, Nigel Penna (with Geoff Blewitt, Corne Kreemer, David Lavallee, Tonie van Dam, Bert Vermeersen)
NERC Standard Grant NE/E017495/1, 2007-2010, £390k.

Global loading and deformation at tidal timescales
Peter Clarke, Nigel Penna, Matt King (with Trevor Baker, Machiel Bos)
NERC Standard Grant NE/C003438/1, 2006-2009, £129k.

Towards centimetre level real-time kinematic GNSS single point precise positioning
Philip Moore, Nigel Penna (with Subsea7)
EPSRC Pinpoint Industrial CASE Studentship, 2006-2010

An assessment of ocean tide models for precise GPS positioning around Great Britain
Nigel Penna, Peter Clarke, Stuart Edwards
RICS Education Trust, 2005-2008

Oil platform subsidence monitoring using GPS
Peter Clarke, Stuart Edwards, Matt King, Nigel Penna
Funded by Shell UK Exploration and Production and BP Exploration / Fugro TGS

Industrial Relevance

I do a substantial amount of contract and consultancy work for survey, positioning and exploration companies, both in the UK and overseas, as well as for government agencies. Notably this involves the continuous GPS monitoring of oil platform subsidence, which is required to sub-cm accuracy.

I run continuing professional development short (few days) courses on Least Squares for the Offshore Positioning industry (regularly for Fugro), and on Continuously Operating GPS Reference Stations for surveyors. Whilst in Australia, I ran numerous courses on GPS for Agriculture, Introduction to GPS and use of On-line GPS Positioning services.


Undergraduate Teaching

Currently module leader for:

CEG1703 Surveying, CEG1709 Engineering Surveying 1, CEG1712 Fundamentals of Surveying, CEG8709 Introduction to Surveying for Town Planning, CEG2712 Engineering Surveying 2

Currently 50% contributor to CEG3702 Advanced Survey Fieldcourse

Previously I have been module leader for CEG2703 Observation Processing and Analysis, CEG3702 Advanced Survey Fieldcourse, and a contributor to CEG1701 Surveying Fieldcourse.

I have also delivered many short courses on GPS and Least Squares for industry.