Flying laboratory that brings better forecasts

The Express and Echo has run a feature article exploring the work of the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM), jointly run and funded by the Met Office and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

The aircraft, a BAe146 four-engine jet, is currently based at Exeter International airport, conducting weather research into stratocumulus clouds.

The aircraft has been flying from Exeter on the Combined Observations of the Atmospheric Boundary Layer to study the Evolution of StratoCumulus (COALESC) campaign – a month-long campaign to study stratocumulus clouds. These boring looking, low layered clouds may only be a few hundred metres thick but they make a big difference between us having a nice, sunny spring day and a dull and dreary day. The COALESC campaign aims to monitor the evolution of stratocumulus cloud layers.

Met Office/NERC FAAM Aircraft

The FAAM aircraft has been operating in tandem with ground based observations being taken by the Met Research Unit at Cardington (Bedford). They have set up observing sites at Weybourne, on the north Norfolk coast, Denver Sluice, near Downham Market, Norfolk, and at Cardington itself. These sites have been monitoring how the clouds develop as they move in from the North Sea on north-easterly winds.

The aircraft has been gathering vital data to help us understand how these clouds form and change during the day – data that will be used to further develop the Met Office’s computer models to provide even more accurate forecasts in the future. The BAe146 is also equipped with instruments identical to those on weather satellites.

Satellite data are of critical importance to the Met Office, allowing us to observe the current state of the atmosphere and use this information as the basis of our forecasts for the next few days. The aircraft instruments are used to allow us to develop new methods to use the satellite data. So next time you watch, listen to or read your local weather bulletin, spare a thought for the scientists who take to the skies.

With its BAe146 – one of the best-equipped research aircraft in the world – FAAM is broadening the horizon of modern weather forecasting. The full article ‘Flying laboratory that brings better forecasts‘ is available on the thisisexeter website.

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