Scientists study storm and pollution links

A team of 20 scientists from the UK has joined an international fact finding mission to try and discover what causes severe storms and extreme flooding in hilly areas.

Weather scientists from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) have joined colleagues from universities, research centers, and meteorological offices in seven other countries at a base in the mountains of the Black Forest in Germany as part of the Convective and Orographically-induced Precipitation Study (COPS).

Using state-of-the-art research aircraft and an airship, the UK team will study storm clouds and how rain forms.

The scientists will have an on-board laboratory in which to study how air gets rapidly swept up into the atmosphere to form large storm clouds, measure their composition and identify the particles that form the rain.

They hope this will determine if man-made pollution is playing a part in the formation of the rain.

For the NCAS, Professor Alan Blyth, who is heading the team of scientists from the universities of Leeds, Manchester, Reading and Salford, said the project presented a unique opportunity to address a scienctific problem specific to the UK, that of understanding how and why severe flooding occurs in some areas and not others.

He said: “We have such variable terrain in the UK, such as hilly, flat, coastal, and riverine, and it is critical that we understand what happens to the weather in these areas and correctly represent it in weather forecasting models.”

Professor Stephen Mobbs, from the NCAS, added: “Climate change predictions suggest stormy times ahead for the UK and flooding, as we know, costs lives and devastation.

“Results from this critical study will feed directly into the Met Offices weather forecasting models to improve predictions at localised levels in the UK”.

Paul Humphries

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